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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

After Amethi loss, Cong battles to save Rae Bareli bastion

lucknow Updated: Oct 17, 2019 19:26 IST

Rae Bareli and Amethi have been two Congress bastions in Uttar Pradesh but the party now faces serious challenges in both the constituencies.

All the three public representatives of the party in Rae Bareli, two MLAs Aditi Singh and Rakesh Singh and MLC Dinesh Singh, have turned rebels.

The Amethi Lok Sabha seat, which the Congress had been winning since 1980, barring 1998, has already fallen to the BJP.

Rae Bareli is the Lok Sabha seat of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. She shifted to Rae Bareli in 2004 to inherit the legacy of her mother-in-law former Prime Minister the late Indira Gandhi.

In 2004, Amethi had elected Rahul, who claimed the legacy of his father the late Rajiv Gandhi. Fifteen years later, Rahul Gandhi lost the seat to union minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

As the Congress, which has been out of power in the state since 1989, revamps the party organisation to regain lost ground, the two VVIP constituencies continue to draw attention of the party leadership and remain in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Take the case of Rae Bareli first. The BJP that began attempts to seize Amethi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had been going slow in Rae Bareli.

BJP president Amit Shah made the first major effort to make a foray in Rae Bareli by inducting Congress MLC Dinesh Singh into the party at a public rally in the constituency on April 21, 2018. Singh’s brother MLA Rakesh Singh, who had won the 2017 assembly election on Congress ticket from the Harchandpur seat of Rae Bareli, began aligning with the BJP programmes.

Soon, the Congress filed petitions seeking disqualification of the Singh brothers while another brother Avdhesh Singh who, held the post of the district panchayat chairman as a Congress leader, also switched loyalties to the BJP.

Aditi Singh, who held the office of All India Mahila Congress general secretary, was injured when her convoy was attacked as a floor test for the Rae Bareli district panchayat chairman turned in to a battle of muscle power in May. Avdhesh Singh and his brother MLC Dinesh Singh were accused of orchestrating the attack on Aditi Singh.

In August, Aditi Singh lost her father Akhilesh Singh, who was often called the Robin Hood of Rae Bareli.

It was in this backdrop that Aditi Singh attended the October 2 special session of the state assembly defying the party whip.

Aditi Singh praised chief minister Yogi Adityanath for action in connection with the attack on her.

A day later, the Yogi government provided Y plus category security to Aditi Singh while the Congress issued a show cause notice, asking her to explain her decision to defy the party whip.

However, the Congress appears to be going slow in taking action against Aditi Singh, perhaps realising that any action against the MLA after her father’s death may get her the people’s sympathy.

Yet, there is the possibility of more leaders, including those at the grassroots who have been aligning with the Singh brothers and Aditi Singh, switching sides in the coming months.

To strengthen the party organization, the Congress recently appointed Pankaj Tiwari as the district president of its Rae Bareli unit. More changes may be made in the coming days.

Amethi, on the other hand, appears to be completely slipping out of Congress’s hands for now. Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Sinh, along with his wife and former minister Amita Sinh, has joined the BJP. Sanjay Sinh also resigned his membership of the Rajya Sabha. Known as the Raja of Amethi, He commands considerable influence in the constituency and his association with the BJP is bound to cause hurdles in the party’s recovery path.

The Congress had lost all the five assembly seats in in Amethi in the 2017 assembly election.

After the 2019 poll loss, the axe has fallen on senior office bearers. The party recently appointed Pradeep Singhal as the new district unit president of Amethi replacing Yogendra Mishra, who had resigned from his post owning moral responsibility for Rahul Gandhi’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Congress MLC from Amethi Deepak Singh has been considered a close loyalist of the Gandhi family. After the 2019 poll debacle, questions are being raised about whether Deepak Singh enjoys the same proximity to the Gandhi family as perceived earlier. Singh said, “I am doing my work. Much should not be read into any other thing.”

An observation by Indresh Vikram Singh, a senior Congress leader from Rae Bareli, explains the prevailing state of affairs for the Congress in the two constituencies and, for that matter, all over the state.

“It is high time the party leadership recognises and gives weightage to the loyalists. Those who once worked with former Prime Minister the late Indira Gandhi are still in the Congress. But our leaders now induct leaders from other parties and bring new faces from outside. Such leaders dump the party for their own interest. Moreover the party has to firm up its stand on all issues and leaders have to make themselves accessible. After the much hyped ‘27 saal UP behal” campaign before 2017 assembly elections, the party leadership decided to align with the SP. Party leaders should be seen fighting for issues concerning the people consistently,” said Singh.