Day after poll result, a cocktail of emotions runs through Amethi
Hours after the pulsating battle of ballots in which ‘Didi’ (as Smriti Irani is known here) triumphed over ‘Bhaiya’ (as Rahul Gandhi is called here), this backward district was a cocktail of emotions.
From Thursday, when Congress suffered only its third defeat here since 1967, most Amethi residents had very little sleep as they celebrated or rued the result. Amethi has seen Congress lose only twice earlier – in 1977, 1998.
Union minister Smriti Irani’s early Friday tweet of a ‘new beginning for Amethi, a new resolve’ got people talking again even as teary-eyed Congressmen struggled to come to terms with the shock loss of their party chief Rahul Gandhi.
An elderly small time shopkeeper, who showed his semi-constructed ‘toilet’ constructed with government funds as reason for his first ever vote to BJP this time, but broke down when asked if he was angry with Rahul.
“I am unhappy with none, except my fate,” said Ram Aadhaar Vishvakarma, 76.
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Vishvanath, a farmer, who pointed to a road that was being freshly laid as proof of development in the region in the last five years, said: “The road was in bad shape for years but as you can see things are improving.”
Mohd Lateef, 56, a former gram Pradhan and cancer patient, who in a voice quivering with emotion, made a contrasting statement “about how Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had visited him and how Rahul Gandhi had helped arrange for his treatment in Delhi.”
At the local BJP office in Amethi a group of excited youths happily shared how they tapped social media to effectively propagate the party line and message among the people. Vivek Maheshwari, 31, an engineer-turned-district IT cell convener coordinated a team of 150 persons and together they managed the party’s twitter handle, its facebook page, nearly a thousand plus whatsapp groups – all for free!
Their incentive: “Well, Vivek is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ‘didi’ too on twitter, you see!” said Sunny Dubey, 24, one of the volunteers of Maheshwari’s IT team.
“We would drive down 60 km out of sheer commitment. Our political rivals wanted to hire us for Rs 15,000 per month but we said no to them for we wanted Modi’s wave to sweep Amethi too,” said Prashant Shukla, 38.
To prove their commitment, they said, “We would set up challenges for boosting our spirits. For instance Maheshwari said he won’t marry if BJP failed to win from here,” Shukla said as Vivek laughed.
A little distance away, Ashok Tiwari, a die-hard Congress fan, bitterly wept every now and then while sharing details of how much “Rahulji had done for Amethi.”
“Do you know that under Rahulji’s advice, Congress runs free medical vans which replace old lens, help people get operated for eye trouble without any cost? Do you know before Congress arrived here Amethi’s soil was infertile but it was Rajiv Gandhiji who got the soil treated and today it’s fertile ...,” he said as some local Congress men nodded in approval.
Bhupendra Mishra, BJP district secretary, however pointed out to the Congress rout as proof of the party’s ‘neglect’ of the VIP bastion. “In booths in even Muslim dominated areas like Kamrauli we have won. In Songra village booth out of 706 votes polled, we got 517, while the Congress got just 189. In 2014 we had lost this booth by 21 votes. So the anger against the Congress was building up since then,” he said.
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Before she left Amethi after the counting was over, Irani reportedly told the cadres that the “real challenge” now is to deliver expectations. With the RSS firmly backing her and BJP’s bid to unsettle the Congress, the Yogi Adityanath government extended its beneficiary outreach programme to Amethi in a big way.
“More than 6.5 lakh beneficiaries here are proof,” BJP leaders said.
BJP general secretary Govind Narayan Shukla, who was the Amethi district chief in 2014, said, “I remember how we operated from a room in a local dharamshala because we didn’t even have our office here. From then till now, it’s an immensely satisfying aspect for people like us here, who had seen those days when despite our limited presence we would guard the ideological space.”
Raj Karan Tripathi, a local Congress functionary said they plan to visit Rahul Gandhi in Delhi and assure him that the loss was an aberration. “I tell you, people are already feeling sad,” he claimed. But BJP leaders like Asha Bajpai said they would ensure that ‘Didi’s’ win became permanent”.