The all-out opposition attack on Rahul Gandhi has forced Congress president Sonia Gandhi to lead the counter-offensive in the family’s bastion – the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency— where she will address a rally on Saturday.
It will be Sonia’s first rally for her son since 2004, when he won the Amethi seat in his maiden election. Rahul, in turn, will address a public meeting in his mother’s Rae Bareli seat on Sunday. Rae Bareli votes on April 30 and Amethi on May 7.
“Sonia has not campaigned in Amethi after bequeathing the seat to Rahul in 2004. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was Sonia’s chief poll campaigner in Amethi, continued in the same role for Rahul despite additional responsibilities in Rae Bareli,” a senior party leader said.
The BJP viewed Sonia’s rally as a reaction to the ‘unprecedented’ support party candidate Smriti Irani received while filing her nomination papers in Amethi on Wednesday. “The BJP may upset the Congress applecart here as people are weighing their options. Besides Sonia, other family members too will camp here in the coming days,” said Amethi-based BJP leader Tejbhan Singh.
The Congress, however, exuded confidence and said Rahul faces no challenge from Irani or Aam Admi Party candidate Kumar Vishwas. “Rahul polled 464,195 votes in 2009 Lok Sabha while the BJP candidate finished a distant third with 37,570 votes. The opposition can at best narrow the victory margin,” a senior leader said.
He added there was nothing unusual about Rahul’s rally in Rae Bareli, where he had campaigned in the past. Priyanka too had campaigned in Rae Bareli and is expected to resume it on April 21 before turning her attention to Amethi from April 25-27 and for two days thereafter.
Rahul is expected to camp in his constituency for two days before the polling day while Sonia will address a rally in Rae Bareli too on April 26.
A focused campaign by the Gandhi family is expected to raise the poll pitch in the region, more so after a verbal war with the ‘saffron’ Gandhis — the mother-son duo of Maneka and Varun. Locals are interested in finding out whether the tactical ceasefire worked out between the two families will hold.
Maneka will be camping in Sultanpur constituency next door from May 3 to May 5 to campaign for Varun.
She will meet BJP workers and address corner meetings in the constituency. Sultanpur too votes on May 7.