BJP out to wrest Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli seat after dethroning Rahul in Amethi
- Senior Congress leaders publicly exude confidence that the BJP would not be able to replicate their performance in Amethi in Rae Bareli, however, the saffron party's attempts to make capture the seat remains an area of concern for them.
After Amethi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now eyeing to wrest Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s Parliamentary constituency of Rae Bareli, the last stronghold of the grand old party in Uttar Pradesh.
If senior BJP leaders were to be believed, efforts to reach out to people in Rae Bareli have been stepped up further and more senior leaders, including union ministers, are expected to visit the constituency in the coming months.
“Rae Bareli is important for the BJP. The party works 24x7 for the people and does not indulge in part-time politics. The BJP works on seats where it loses any election. We did so after the 2014 and 2019 polls too. We won Amethi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. We will surely win Rae Bareli in the next polls” said Vijay Pathak, Uttar Pradesh BJP vice president.
Pathak’s assertions are not unfounded. After winning Amethi---- the other bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family-- the BJP has been focusing on Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat. Union minister Smriti Irani has been visiting Rae Bareli too, besides Amethi. Deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma was made the minister in charge of Rae Bareli and party men have intensified their campaign to take ‘achievements’ of Narendrea Modi and Yogi governments to the people.
“Yes, we are taking the achievements of Modi and Yogi governments to the people. We have a strong party structure up to booth level. The Congress may have won Rae Bareli in 2019 polls but the party’s victory margin came down considerably. The BJP is bound to win all the Assembly seats in Rae Bareli in 2022 state assembly elections and surely win the Lok Sabha seat in 2024 polls,” said Rae Bareli BJP president, Ramdev Pal.
The BJP efforts to win Rae Bareli and Amethi intensified after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections after the installation of Yogi Adityanath government in 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
As BJP president, Amit Shah, addressed a mega party rally in Rae Bareli in April 2018 and inducted Congress MLC Dinesh Singh into the BJP. After 2019 Lok Sabha elections, both the Congress MLAs from Rae Bareli, Rakesh Singh (Dinesh Singh’s brother) and Aditi Singh have turned rebels. Both of them though remain Congress MLAs while continuing to maintain distance from the party leadership and are considered close to the BJP.
While senior Congress leaders publicly exude confidence and assert that the BJP would not be able to replicate their performance in Amethi in Rae Bareli, the BJP’s consistent attempts to make deep forays in the constituency remains an area of concern for them.
“Rae Bareli is the bastion of the Congress. Whatever development has taken place in Rae Bareli is because of the Congress. The people of Rae Bareli are aware of this fact. Amethi is a neighbouring constituency and the people there are realising that the promises made to them have not been fulfilled. Amethi has been deprived of projects after the BJP’s victory there in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. No one wants to repeat what has been done in Amethi and the BJP will never be successful in Rae Bareli,” said Rae Bareli Congress president Pankaj Tiwari.
Tiwari said both Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary in charge for UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, have remained in touch with the people of the constituency despite the restrictions due to Covid-19. He said both of them had visited the constituency early in 2020 but were unable to revisit due to the pandemic.
“We are not allowed (by the state administration) to reach out to people, hold protests or political programmes in Rae Bareli on the pretext of Covid-19 restrictions. Such restrictions are not applied to the BJP workers,” said Tiwari.
“Both Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra however have remained in touch with the people here. We had a video conferencing with Soniaji only about two weeks ago. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra keeps in touch with the party men here. She is expected to visit the constituency and meet the people soon,” Tiwari added.
Sonia has consistently won the seat after shifting from Amethi, bequeathing her husband and late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s political legacy to son Rahul Gandhi in 2004. Rahul Gandhi won Amethi in 2004, 2009 and 2014 polls but lost to Union minister Smriti Irani in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“Yes, the people of Rae Bareli voted for Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Sonia Gandhi has not been in good health for some time and has not been able to visit the constituency as frequently as she used to do. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra can work as her substitute but has to decide on contesting election from the constituency. The BJP is a rising sun while the Congress has not been able to resolve the leadership issue. The BJP may capture the Rae Bareli seat too in such a situation,” said SK Dwivedi, former head of department, political science, Lucknow University.