All eyes on Rae Bareli, Amethi as 14 Lok Sabha constituencies go to the polls in Uttar Pradesh

Among the seats, Rae Bareli and Amethi constituencies, both synonymous with the Gandhi family, are making a lot of buzz with Congress workers from across India visiting the places in a bid to galvanise support for the party nominees.

Updated - May 17, 2024 10:57 am IST

Published - May 17, 2024 03:03 am IST - LUCKNOW

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being greeted by supporters during a rally for Lok Sabha elections, in Rae Bareli on May 15, 2024.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being greeted by supporters during a rally for Lok Sabha elections, in Rae Bareli on May 15, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

All eyes will be on Uttar Pradesh with 14 Lok Sabha seats, including key seats like Rae Bareli, Lucknow and Amethi, going for polls during the fifth phase?of the general election on May 20.

Polling will be held in 14 Lok Sabha seats namely Rae Bareli, Mohanlalganj, Lucknow, Amethi, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Banda, Fatehpur, Kaushambhi, Faizabad, Barabanki, Kaiserganj and Gonda. The seats where the electorate will be voting are considered significant for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it will aim to repeat its 2019 parliamentary poll performance when it won 13 of the 14 seats in this phase with the lone seat of Rae Bareli going to the Congress.

Among the seats, Rae Bareli and Amethi constituencies, both synonymous with the Gandhi family, are making a lot of buzz with Congress workers from across the country visiting the places in a bid to galvanise support for the party nominees.

In 2019, former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi won the Rae Bareli seat by over 1.67 lakh votes, becoming her party’s lone Lok Sabha member from arguably India’s most politically crucial State. This time her son Rahul Gandhi, who is also a former Congress president and lost the neighbouring traditional bastion of Amethi in 2019 to the BJP’s Smriti Irani, is trying his luck from his mother’s pocket borough of Rae Bareli.

Also Read | Amethi and Rae Bareli | Twin power centres

The BJP, which mocked Mr. Gandhi for shifting from Amethi to Rae Bareli in this election, asserted that the Gandhi scion will lose the citadel that the grand old party has won 17 out of 20 times till date. “Be it Amethi or Rae Bareli, the Gandhi family has not done any development anywhere. The Gandhi family is expert in making false promises. The BJP will make Rae Bareli the Number 1 district of the State. Rahul baba, who is running from here to there (Amethi to Rae Bareli) in fear of defeat, is not going to get anything even in Rae Bareli,” asserted Union Home Minister and top BJP leader Amit Shah in Rae Bareli.

The focus of the BJP in making sure that Mr. Gandhi loses Rae Bareli, which will reaffirm the Congress’ detachment from ground realities of the Hindi heartland is evident from Mr. Shah visiting local Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Manoj Pandey’s residence after the Rae Bareli rally for about half an hour.

Mr. Pandey, earlier in February this year, resigned from the post of the party’s chief whip and cross-voted in favour of the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls. He is considered an influential Brahmin leader in the district with the community constituting roughly 11% of Rae Bareli’s total electorate and traditionally supports the grand old party.

The Congress’s spirited campaign in both Rae Bareli and Amethi is led by Mr. Gandhi’s sister and former U.P. Congress in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who is doing at least 10 nukkad (treet corner) meetings or outreach work with the public daily with an eye to develop bonding with the voters through a personal touch. Ms. Vadra stationed herself in Rae Bareli for more than a week.

In Amethi, Kishori Lal Sharma, an old trusted aide of the Gandhi family, is facing the BJP’s Smriti Irani. Both Mr. Gandhi and Ms. Vadra have touched upon the century-old ties the Gandhi family shares with both Rae Bareli and Amethi, while adding that the relationship will never break.

Holy bond

“This relation [between the Gandhi family and people of?Amethi] is a holy bond, a relation of mutual respect, love, a bond of blood. When I meet the people of Rae Bareli and Amethi, memories of the last four decades flash in my mind. This relationship will never break,” said Ms. Vadra, adding that even if someone peddles 2,000 false narratives and at times people accept it, the ties will not break.

“Whosoever becomes your MP, indulges in any kind of politics, speaks 2,000 false narratives against us, even if you believe them, the relationship will not break,” she added. In 2019, Ms. Irani defeated Mr. Gandhi by a margin of over 55,000 votes in Amethi.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is seeking a third straight term from Lucknow, is pitted against Ravidas Mehrotra of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Sarwar Malik. A strong organisational structure is evident from Lucknow seat as the BJP has ensured that the constituency remains a stronghold of the party since the 1991 Lok Sabha polls, with the party not losing the last eight elections to the Lok Sabha.

Once synonymous?with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who represented it between 1991 to 2009, the incumbent Defence Minister is considered to be a strong contender for a third term. In 2019, Mr. Singh won the seat by over 3.47 lakh votes defeating SP candidate Poonam Sinha.

Another key seat going to polls in the fifth phase is Kaiserganj where Karan Bhushan Singh, the son of former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and sitting MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, is contesting against Bhagat Ram Mishra of SP and Narendra Pandey of BSP. The former WFI president, who is facing serious allegations of sexually harassing women wrestlers, is actively campaigning for his son vowing to make him victorious by a huge margin.

The Faizabad Lok Sabha seat consisting of four out of five Assembly seats of Ayodhya district, which houses the Ram Temple, is also going to the polls with the BJP pushing the Mandir narrative.

In Jhansi, former Union Minister Pradeep Jain Aditya is contesting on behalf of the INDIA bloc on a Congress ticket against the sitting BJP MP Anurag Sharma. In Fatehpur, Union Minister and sitting BJP MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti is taking on former SP State president and leading non-Yadav Other Backward Classes (OBC) face of the Opposition party Naresh Uttam Patel.

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