“You had contested the last Lok Sabha election on my behalf. You are contesting this election too,” said Sonia Gandhi at her only meeting in Rae Bareli.
The Congress chief visited her constituency only for a few hours on Saturday April 25, addressing just one public meeting at the GIC grounds. But her confidence is not unfounded.
Sonia had won 4,74,891 votes in the 2006 Lok Sabha bypoll, necessitated by her
resignation over the ‘office of profit’ issue. She increased her 2004 tally of 3,78,007 defeating rivals Raj Kumar (SP) and Vinay Katiyar (BJP) who could get only 57,003 and 19,657 votes respectively.
So Priyanka Vadra refers to her mother’s victories as she aggressively campaigns for Sonia, addressing 12 to 18 public meetings everyday. But she too is not asking for votes. “I don’t want to ask you for votes. I know whom you are going to vote for. You are going to vote for Soniaji only. I only want to ask you to come out to vote.”
She is focusing on development as the main poll plank, but so is the Opposition.
“The Congress has cheated people in the name of development,” says BJP candidate R.B. Singh.
He then goes on to list the negatives — condition of the roads, the power supply situation and the dried up canals. He also mentions the Indian Telephone Industry that he says is Rae Bareli’s pride and should have been merged with BSNL.
Sonia has not taken care of these problems. “It’s going to be a repeat of 1977,” says Singh, referring to the time when Indira Gandhi was defeated by Raj Narain of the Janta Party.
BSP’s R.S. Kushwaha also highlights the areas’ backwardness as the main issue.
But Priyanka tells the people that they have seen Sonia’s work. She lists major projects like the Rail Coach Factory and schemes like the NREGA, rural electrification and loan waiver for farmers etc. to make her point.
Captain Satish Sharma who joins Priyanka at some of the meetings assures people that the pace of development would be expedited after elections. “Development will take off at the speed of airplanes flying from Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy, Rae Bareli,” he says.
But for the people, Rae Bareli’s status as VVIP constituency appears to be more important that any issue.
“We had lost our identity after Indira Gandhi. With Sonia we get the tag of a VVIP constituency,” said a voter, adding, “with Sonia development will automatically come.”