Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is not finding the going easy in his family bastion Amethi.
As he prepares for the Lok Sabha election, there are enough indications that the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) entry into the electoral battle has upset Congress calculations. There is also infighting within the Congress. And Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party is shedding its friendly face to throw a challenge to the Gandhi scion.
While Gandhi supporters may not yet admit it openly, there are enough signs that they are worried in the face of the gauntlet thrown at them by AAP’s poet-politician Kumar Vishwaas.
The ‘AAP effect’ is already evident.
Two-term MP Gandhi, the Congress campaign chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, last week not only mingled freely with Amethi’s people but offered a ride to a woman in his SUV. He even interacted with the local media, which in the past would be kept at arm’s length by the Special Protection Group which guards Gandhi.
Not to stop at this, Gandhi, after reaching New Delhi, sent family loyalist and union Surface Transport Minister Oscar Fernandes to Amethi to study the state of roads in the constituency. Fernandes was also told to take “corrective measures”.
This happened after a series of black flag protests Gandhi faced in Amethi.
Close aides and local Congress leaders concede the contours of the electoral fight had changed after the AAP foray. “We cannot ignore him,” a Congress functionary said, pointing out that Kumar Vishwas was harping on the lack of development. This is finding takers here.
“Kumar Vishwas’ charge that he sees no real development despite Rahul Gandhi’s claims of spending Rs.55,000 crore here is lapped up,” a party source said.
There have also been street protests against a grim power scenario and poor roads in the Munshiganj, Injauna, Jagdishpur and Gauriganj areas.
The Congress fears that slogans of “road nahin toh vote nahin’ (no roads, no votes) that echoed in Karaundi village in Amethi earlier could revive.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Gandhi bagged 4.64 lakh votes — or 71 percent of all votes. But just three years later the Congress won only two of the five assembly seats in Amethi.
In Rae Bareli, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress could not win any of the five assembly seats.
Camping in Amethi for over two weeks, Kumar Vishwas dares Gandhi at every meeting he holds. “I am here to be with you and not to take your vote and fly off to Delhi,” he says.
“I am nothing compared to Rahul Gandhi. He comes from a famous family; I have a modest background,” Kumar Vishwas said. “I am here to challenge a work culture in politics that takes voters for granted.”
Another problem with the Congress is the rivalry within, with the party split between Gandhi loyalists and supporters of Sanjay Singh of the erstwhile Amethi royal family.
The ruling Samajwadi Party too might pitch a candidate against Gandhi – unlike in the past when it did not take on the Gandhis. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has promoted Gayatri Parasad Prajapati and Manoj Pandey, state legislators from Amethi and Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituencies, to the Uttar Pradesh cabinet.
Prajapati said that Rahul Gandhi had lost the goodwill of Amethi. He was also dismissive of the AAP.
The Bharatiya Janata Patty has also got into the act. “We will pit strong candidates against political heavyweights,” says Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the BJP state spokesman. (IANS)