A political slugfest has begun in the crucial constituency of Amethi with an eye on the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017. The trigger? BJP winning 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014 and whittling down Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s victory margin in Amethi.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi had defeated BJP's Smriti Irani in Amethi by a margin of 1.07 lakh votes. But the victory was not as impressive as his performance in 2009, when he won by a margin of more than 3.70 lakh votes.
Now, the political gamesmanship in Amethi has peaked after installation of the Narendra Modi government following the genreal elections, in which the Congress was routed.
Here are four reasons that have intensified the battle for Amethi.
Cancellation of a food park
After Gandhi raised the cancellation of the ambitious Shaktiman Mega Food Park in parliament, union minister for human resources development, Irani, was seen visiting villages and holding ‘kisan panchayats’ in the constituency to put across the NDA government’s point to the people.
As Gandhi steps up his attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and points out the failures of his government on various fronts, the BJP is making tactical counter-moves to corner him on his political home turf.
The more he attacks the BJP leadership, the more he may be cornered here.
Battle for 2017 state elections
Amidst moves and counter moves over issues concerning the farmers, the battle for the 2017 state assembly election appears to have already begun in Amethi. Irani’s second visit to the constituency this month is not a coincidence.
“Although Irani’s visits to Amethi are focused only on farmers , the party cadres are automatically getting galvanised for the 2017 assembly polls,” said Uma Shankar Pandey, a senior BJP leader based in Amethi.
The Congress had won only two Vidhan Sabha seats (Tiloi and Jagdishpur) in the 2012 Vidhan Sabha election there. After the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the party has reorganised its cadres.
“By fighting for the revival of the food park and raising the issues concerning farmers, Rahul Gandhi is able to connect with the people. The upbeat mood in the party is leading to revival of cadres across the state. With this fight, Rahul is also gearing up the party organisation for the 2017 Vidhan Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh,” said a senior Congress leader.
Smriti Irani's recent visits
Although Gandhi did not comment on Irani’s visits to the constituency, he hinted that the NDA government may scrap or shift more projects out of Amethi.
His party leaders have already said, “Irani has been behind the scrapping of the Discovery Park at the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) at Tikarmafi in Amethi. She is also conspiring to shift the IIIT from Tikarmafi to Allahabad,” alleged Mohd Muslim, Congress MLA from Tiloi.
BJP's attack on Rahul
Amethi’s BJP leaders on the other hand have launched a counter- offensive against Gandhi for not bringing development to his Lok Sabha constituency during the 10-year tenure of the UPA government.
“Rahul Gandhi is losing confidence of the people of Amethi. He tried to focus on farmers during his recent three-day visit. But he has not done anything for the far mers. At Irani’s instance, a soil test laboratory is being set up at Katra Lalganj near Gariganj, the district headquarters of Amethi. Land for the project has been identified and work may begin soon. Irani has also decided to contribute from her own pocket the insurance premium of Pradhan Mantri Jan Suraksha Yojana for 25000 poor people of Amethi,” said BJP’s Pandey.