The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, may have cast a spell and revived the party’s fortunes in Uttar Pradesh but across Rae Bareli’s villages, many ask, “Modi? Who Modi?”
Ramvati, in her early 60s, looks blank in Harchandpur when Modi is mentioned. In another village in Gurubuxganj, Pushpa looks equally perplexed when asked about Modi and Ajay Agarwal, the Supreme Court lawyer who is pitted against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has represented Rae Bareli since 2004.
“Forget the Modi wave, there is a Modi storm here,’’ says Agarwal but it is only in Rae Bareli town that one can find a few persons who have heard of him or Modi. The constituency remains a bastion of the Gandhi family, with Indira being the only Gandhi to have lost in 1977 to Janata Party’s Raj Narain after Emergency.
“Sonia Gandhi does not even have a house here. She only flies in and out,’’ accuses Agarwal, but he has a problem collecting people during a road-show. Rae Bareli, like many other towns in UP, has its share of potholed roads but the rail coach factory and the local All India Institute of Medical Sciences stand out as symbols of development that Sonia has brought to the local people.
Unlike in neighbouring Amethi, represented by Rahul Gandhi, where the contest has generated interest because of AAP’s Kumar Vishwas and BJP’s Smriti Irani also being in the fray, Rae Bareli’s fight remains centred around Sonia’s victory margin. Here, fewer still have heard of AAP candidate Archana Srivastava.
The Congress may be in the grip of an anti-incumbency wave but Rae Bareli remains an oasis and defies any such signs. Here, with polling day upon them, more and more voters are asking: “Modi, who Modi? We have never seen him.”