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Even before Aam Aadmi Party co-founder Kumar Vishwas reached the venue of his rally in Amethi on Sunday, the Congress citadel in Uttar Pradesh was abuzz with speculation on whether he would defeat Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha polls the way Ravindra Pratap Singh of the Janata Party beat Sanjay Gandhi in 1977.
If the gathering of about 6,000 people at Vishwas’s first rally here is any indication, people in Amethi seem to have accepted the entry of the rookie politician and his party in the political arena despite the age-old loyalty for the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Winning or losing is another matter, but that the broom brigade has started making inroads into the Congress bastion cannot be written off even as Vishwas’s candidature awaits the approval of AAP’s parliamentary advisory committee. AAP hoardings that have started appearing on the Amethi skyline testify to this. Not to mention the omnipresent AAP caps.
“The question is whether the curiosity among locals would be converted into votes. This cannot be done unless Vishwas raises local issues,” said political analyst Sudhir Panwar who attended the AAP rally.
UP Congress committee member Munna Singh Prisunda, however, was dismissive. “All Kumar is here for is to criticise Rahul and remain in the limelight. The people of Amethi will give him a fitting reply. Most visitors at the rally were outsiders. Three-fourths of the area of the rally venue, which has a capacity of 10,000, was vacant.”
Launching a challenge against “dynastic politics” from the Nehru-Gandhi turf, Vishwas clearly seemed to have won the hearts of the people present with his oratory skills mixed with a dash of poetry and satire. The audience, comprising mostly AAP supporters from the adjoining districts of Sultanpur, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh and Lucknow clapped heartily as he belted out couplets, one after another.
Whether it was the desire for change or plain curiosity, people of all ages came out on Amethi’s streets to witness the AAP fleet of more than 150 cars and buses packed with supporters. Some old-timers were reminded of the days of Rajiv Gandhi, who would interact with people the way Vishwas did as he travelled through Amethi.
“It would be too early to predict the results. They (AAP) have just come. Let’s see how the jhadu works. We cannot forget what Rajivji did for us,” said local Vikram Singh. Reflecting Singh’s sentiment, many hoardings stand tall across the district, pointing to this Lok Sabha constituency’s loyalty to the Gandhis. But given the Congress’s poor show in the 2012 assembly polls and AAP’s rise, some Amethi residents are ruling out surprises. “The problem with the Gandhis has been that they don’t stay here after winning. Vishwas has promised he will stay here. Time will tell,” said Vijay Pratap..
Also, for many youths in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi cannot be compared to his father.“Rajivji developed this area. Rahul is only inaugurating big projects, which don’t benefit locals much,” said Ashutosh, who will be a first-time voter.