UP chief minister Mayawati was both right and wrong when she said recently: “There would have been no need to beg for votes if the Gandhis had worked for the development of the area (Rae Bareli and Amethi).”
The truth is people here love their exalted status for being residents of the Lok Sabha constituencies represented by the Gandhis but are furious with party MLAs who represent them in the assembly.
The Congress wins seats here primarily because of the emotional bonding of the people with the Gandhi family.
Priyanka is currently touring the 10 assembly segments of the two Lok Sabha constituencies. The Congress had lost three in 2007 — Tiloi and Gauriganj in Amethi and Rae Bareli (Sadar) in Rae Bareli.
As one travels across the area, one meets people reminiscing the moment when they shook hands with former PM Rajiv Gandhi and his ‘bahuria’ (as they refer to Sonia).
A disabled woman who ekes out a living by tailoring clothes in Gauriganj said: “I stood between Rajiv Bhaiya and Sonia, they gave (me) the confidence to live.”
She is indebted to them as they got her a wheelchair and then disabled person pension.
But there are young aspirational voices saying “enough is enough”.
Kamrauli in Jagdishpur has a vibrant market — a symbol of growth in the area. A unit each of Indo-Gulf Fertiliser and BHEL, banks and public schools dot the area.
But many factories have closed down in the past 22 years — the period when non-Congress governments ruled in the state. Ranjit Singh says angrily, “We don’t have a science degree college. Students have to go to Lucknow or Sultanpur. No new industries have come and the old ones are closing down.”
But as one moves down to the rural pockets, Priyanka’s impact is visible. Ganga Prasad Vishwakarna of Nihalgarh village says: “The Congress will win as the candidate (there) is not corrupt. Usne kisi ka na bigara, na khaya (he has not harmed anyone). He still moves in an old jeep.”
Rakesh Kumar in Losanpur village says the Congress will scrape through because of Priyanka. “We were young when Rajiv Gandhi had come. People are angry because there has been no development in the area. But whether they do it or not, we will support them.”
Last comes the honest confession. Harish C Shahu says: “People here still vote for Rajiv Gandhi. Had he been alive, much would have happened.”