Congress president Rahul Gandhi is perhaps the only Member of Parliament, who holds the distinction of being thoroughly disliked as the serving representative of the Amethi parliamentary constituency and yet having been re-elected from there three consecutive terms. Since the last 15 years, thousands of people — who even say that he has consistently failed on every count for last three term — would still vote for him because of the emotional connect they have had with the Gandhi-Nehru family.
There have been instances when an individual candidate beat prevailing anti-incumbency because the leader of the party to which s/he belonged had a far reaching appeal. Say, the the BJP because Narendra Modi’s popularity far outweighs the likes or dislikes against individual candidate, and the same had been the case with Congress during Indira Gandhi’s time.
But Rahul’s case is different. He is the supreme leader of his party, and someone whose word was final in the 10-years-long UPA regime, during his first and second term as an MP. In those 10 years when Congress-led UPA was in power, the state was ruled by Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, the two 'outside' allies of UPA at the Centre.
Despite this, after travelling to Amethi for coverage of this election and on several occasions in the past, there is no hesitation in saying that one feels sorry for the lack of development here. In the entire stretch of this district, and its five Assembly segments, there is no place to stay, no half-decent place to eat nor any signs of development that are now visible in the rest of Uttar Pradesh (to whatever relative extent). This has been a VVIP constituency for over four decades, since the time Sanjay Gandhi first came here to contest elections.
Talk to older people here and they would proudly tell you that Sanjay Gandhi hospital was built here, so was HAL, a canal and some other developmental work was carried out by Rajiv Gandhi. But even die hard Congress loyalists are at a loss of words to suggest anything that Rahul may have done since 2004 when he won for the first time. He is now seeking fourth consecutive term but there is nothing that he and his sister Priyanka could showcase as his work while asking people to yet again make him victorious.
They, therefore, are harping on the emotional connect that their family has with the people. That’s a smart strategy on their part and one that continues to pay upto an extent. A section of people voting for Rahul in these election openly admit that Modi has done good work in last five years and needs to be given another five year term but since they were voters in Amethi their heart is in conflict with their mind.
Take Ashutosh Tiwari aka Tuntun who runs a medicine shop near Rudauli for example. "Modi ji has done some real good work, the country needs him as Prime Minister for another term but he should show large heartedness and leave Amethi for Rahul Gandhi. This is like a home for Gandhi family, it's a matter of pride for us. He may not have done any visible work, he has certain shortcomings and we are aware of that but then we are bound by our conscience to vote for him."
Tiwari even has a word of praise for Smriti Irani for the grit she has shown by continuing to stay in touch with the constituency and doing some developmental work including getting a long cherished bridge over Gomti river built in Pipra village.
Such comments are more common than one would realise as you meet people of varying castes and from different walks of the society. Some would rationalise the non-performance of Rahul by saying that since the contest between him and Irani has become too close this time, it was all the more important for them to root for him.
Mangal Shukla at Gauriganj has an interesting argument “I admit that Rahul Gandhi has not delivered. He has not performed as an MP in last 15 years. But he is Congress president, he is son of Rajeev Gandhi and grandson of Indira Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv had given so much to Amethi. How can we forget that." On an afterthought he adds that “tell me if he had delivered would Smriti Irani ever dreamt of giving him a fight. She is giving a fight to him and they say its 50:50 just because Rahul Ji has not delivered. Under the circumstances it's incumbent on us to vote for him."
Then there are arguments that at some later date, 2024 or even later in 2029 Rahul Gandhi would become Prime Minister of the country and then this constituency would acquire even greater prominence in the media as the prime minister's constituency. Nobody negates the argument that there is a chance that the Gandhi scion will go on to become the prime minister. So why make Rahul lose and lose the VVIP status of this constituency.
While sitting idle at a bench at a non-descript tea stall in Amethi City, Rampal Yadav said, "We are willing to wait, to give another 10 years to him to become prime minister”. His opinion was dittoed by Virendra Pandey.
What has come to trouble die hard Gandhi-Nehru supporters is the fact that several schemes launched by Modi government like pucca houses for poor, Ujjawala Yojna (electricity to each house), gas cylinders, and transfer of Rs 6000 by the Centre to accounts of farmers under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna is shifting loyalties of sections of dalits and backward castes. Ramanand Pasi of Pichora village, for instance was a traditional Congress voter but after benefiting from Modi government’s rural residential scheme, an electriciy connection, and a gas cylinder, he has become an open supporter of BJP. Pasi is taunted as “naya Bhajapaye” by some fellow villagers but he has remained undeterred in his resolve. At Parsawan village some Yadav families have switched their preference for Modi/BJP after toilets were built and two installments of Rs 2000 under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna came into their account.
At Chappanpur village a group of residents admitted that Rahul has so far benefitted because of Rajeev and Sanjay’s good work and it will continue to benefit him. "It was his family that worked for us, how can we abandon him now when our support matters most to him. Don't forget that it is because of him and his family that you guys come here in such large numbers and make Amethi's name figure nationally and internationally." One of them said the debate thus must end here. Emotions after all, defy logic.
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Updated Date: May 04, 2019 11:32:58 IST