Amethi: BJP's Smriti Irani takes on Gandhi family loyalist KL Sharma - Hindustan Times
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Amethi: BJP's Smriti Irani takes on Gandhi family loyalist KL Sharma

May 19, 2024 01:10 AM IST

Irani is seeking reelection from the constituency. The Congress has fielded Gandhi-family loyalist KL Sharma from the seat that the BJP won in 2019

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on May 17, Friday, called the election in Amethi a fight between the ‘Abhinay’ (theatrics) and ‘Vinay’ (humility).

Union Minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani at her residence after her election campaign in Amethi on May 2.(PTI) PREMIUM
Union Minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani at her residence after her election campaign in Amethi on May 2.(PTI)

“Akhilesh Yadav has used 'Abhinay' because Smriti Irani has been an actor and 'Vinay' because KL Sharma is not a leader and is not able to speak at public meetings. Smriti Irani respects people and has worked hard in the constituency. We can give a long list of the work she has done in Amethi. She is a popular leader and will surely win,” said Amethi BJP leader Uma Shankar Pandey.

As electioneering comes to an end in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency on Saturday evening, the stakes are both high and high-profile. The constituency goes to the polls in the fifth phase on May 20.

Union minister Irani is seeking reelection from the constituency. The Congress has fielded Gandhi-family loyalist KL Sharma from the seat that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won in 2019 when Irani won the seat defeating Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi.

The defeat in 2019, however, was not the first time that a Gandhi family member had lost this Lok Sabha seat. Gandhi’s uncle Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi too had lost the seat in 1977. He, however, wrested the seat back in 1980.

Later Rajiv Gandhi, who became Prime Minister in 1984, won the seat in a by-election in 1981 following the death of his younger brother, Sanjay. Captain Satish Sharma, who represented the seat in 1991 and 1996 following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi (1991), however, lost Amethi to the BJP’s Sanjay Singh in 1998.

Will Sharma, who has experience of working in the region for nearly 43 years, be able to wrest the seat from the BJP in the 2024 polls?

“There is going to be a tough fight and the voters will decide the fate of both the candidates on May 20,” said Ram Bahadur Verma, former head of department, political science, Feroze Gandhi Degree College, Rae Bareli.

“A close friend of the Gandhi family Captain Satish Sharma, who won the seat in 1991 and 1996, represented the Congress in Amethi as Sonia Gandhi was yet to join active politics. (She contested her first election from Amethi in 1999). The voters are though silent though they have made up their minds,” said Verma.

Soon after the Congress announced Sharma as its candidate Irani targeted the party, saying by not fielding Rahul Gandhi from the seat the Congress had conceded defeat.

“We have seen construction of good roads. A bypass has come up. The power supply issue too is no more there. This government has done a good job. If a Gandhi family member was in contest we would have supported. But the Congress has fielded KL Sharma. So, the election is tilted in favour of the BJP,” said Bansi Lal from Sarai Khera village of Amethi.

“The Congress is making all efforts to win Amethi and the party has an edge. Now the people are realising that they have an old connection with the Nehru-Gandhi family. Smriti Irani won the poll because of the people’s support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP did not bring any development to the constituency,” said Sriram Jas Chauhan from the same village of Amethi.

“Several old persons in the constituency recall the days when a large chunk of land was Usar (barren). Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi worked for the treatment of Usar (barren) land and gypsum fertiliser was provided. Whatever development or greenery one sees in Amethi is all because of the Congress. We all somehow were affected by the general mood in favour of the BJP. But this will not happen now,” Chauhan added.

Rahul Gandhi, who along with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, addressed a Congress-Samajwadi Party’s joint rally on Friday, assured the people of Amethi that he will not differentiate between Amethi and Rae Bareli. “Don’t ever think that I am contesting election from Rae Bareli. I belong to Amethi and will remain committed to Amethi,” said Gandhi.

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, who also addressed a rally in Rae Bareli on Friday, said if Rae Bareli was her family, then Amethi too was her home.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has also been campaigning for Sharma in Amethi. She targeted Irani saying she came to the constituency not because of her relationship with the people but to defeat Rahul Gandhi.

“...Smriti Irani will not understand our relationship (Gandhi family’s relationship with the people of Amethi. She did not come here for you. She came here to defeat Rahul Gandhi. She came to fight Rahul Gandhi and not because of her devotion for you,” she said while addressing party workers at Tendua village of Bahadurpur near Fursatganj airport.

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