There was a time when Congress had a major hold on the Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha constituencies, but sadly for the grand old party, that isn’t the case anymore. The party has been virtually wiped out from UP barring two seats, Rae Bareli and Amethi, which are the traditional Congress bastions in the country. Rae Bareli has been in the hands of the Gandhi family since 1951, when Feroze Gandhi became the first MP from this constituency. The Congress Central Election Committee on Thursday announced that Sonia Gandhi will contest the Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Sonia Gandhi is the current MP from Rae Bareli and she is serving her third term from the constituency. Prior to that, she had been contesting from Amethi which she left in favour of her son, Rahul Gandhi.
Even after decades of national and international attention as the “VIP constituency” of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the town of Rae Bareli awaits its redemption. The constituency struggles to meet even the basic requirement of its residents such as electricity and education, lagging behind some of the poorest districts in the country. Despite having a high enrollment percentage, the education is down to the drains with as low as 40% of total attendance due to a lack in infrastructure facilities. Official statistics shows that Rae Bareli and Amethi fall below even Jhansi and Etawah, regarded as among the poorest regions in the state, in the terms of literacy rates and social development indices.
“The easiest escape is to blame the state government for the lack of development,” said Gayatri Prasad Prajapti, a former SP leader from Amethi. “Out of the 65 years, Congress ruled the state for 34 years. They were also in power at the Centre during these years. Lip service doesn’t bring development,” he added.
The members of Nehru-Gandhi family, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, have been doing only limited work for the people. Whatever establishments have been built, educated people are required to be employed there. Due to the dreadful literacy rates, most of the locals can’t work in those establishments. Ram Bahadur Verma, a former professor at Firoze Gandhi Degree College in Raebareli stated, “Those who got jobs were hired at the lowest rungs”.
The level of development in the region is below the state average and voters’ aspiration have always been ignored by the representatives of both these constituencies. Yet the grand old party has managed to have a hold on the constituencies. They have psyched the people into celebrity worship. “People from both the constituencies think that they will lose their identity if the members of the Gandhi-Nehru family do not represent them in Parliament,” says Mohammad Naseer, former panchayat chief of Bahadurgarh in Amethi. “They are happy living in misery just because Sonia, Rahul or Priyanka sometimes visit their village and hold meetings with them,” alleges Naseer.
In the past, this electoral approach had made the state administration led by parties prior to BJP to adopt hands off approach whenever it was required to work for the development of the constituency as they feared the credit for development anyway going to the Congress.
This mentality changed since CM Yogi came at the helm of affairs. The BJP government has been keen on setting a precedence of regional development being given the utmost priority, regardless of the credit. In furtherance to this, they have initiated several projects in the district. Amethi has seen a hoard of economic and social development initiatives by the NDA government including the latest enterprise of setting up of AK-203 rifle factory, which is the latest derivative of the legendary AK-47 rifle. PM Modi in Rae Bareli has recently announced setting up of a rail industrial park, a medical college, a hospital and a crucial road highway dedicated to the people, which would link Rae Bareli to Banda. This comes as a relief as the district of Rae Bareli did not have any government medical college till now. PM announced the plan to develop Rae Bareli as a global hub of rail coach manufacturing as a joint project of the railway ministry and the Uttar Pradesh government. He said, “Soon the wagons of all metro trains, semi-high speed trains and aluminium bogies would also be manufactured here”. As the production capacity increases, locals in terms of employment will benefit even more. Small and medium scale businessmen will benefit too. The Minister of Railways, Piyush Goyal announced that doubling of rail line from Amethi to Jais would be completed by March 2019 while the next phase of the project from Jais to Rae Bareli would be over by December next year. Apart from the economic development, Yogi Adityanath informed the Prime Minister that over 23,000 houses had been built for the poor in Rae Bareli.
All these developments taking place in the state have had a very positive impact on the people. They have glimpsed what an actual well developed city is and desire it, more so than any fame worship factor. This realisation is evident which is giving rise to a new electoral trend, seeing as BJP won six out of the 10 seats in the two districts of Rae Bareli and Amethi while Congress lost all four seats it contested in Amethi.
Congress has realised their foothold from the most politically crucial state of the country has been hanging by a lace from quite some time. In an effort to establish itself, the grand old party has been seeking to be a part of the ‘Mahamilavat’ with BSP and SP, an effort that has not reaped any benefit.
With Congress likely to lose Amethi given Rahul Gandhi’s blatant failure of securing even a single seat in the state elections, coupled with Smriti Irani’s obvious developmental policies being recognized by the voters; Congress’ trepidation at thought of losing both the family legacy constituencies is inevitable. Moreover, the failure to secure an alliance with the SP and BSP has been a huge blow. In light of such excruciating circumstances, Congress perceives Sonia Gandhi, coming out of her voluntary retirement in the form of a saviour. Though Sonia Gandhi wanted to retire once Rahul Gandhi was crowned party president, and there were speculations of newly appointed general secretary in-charge (East UP), Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to fill in her mother’s shoes, the release of the Congress candidate list puts an end to all speculations. In fact, the ‘privileged daughter’ is nowhere to be mentioned.
If Congress manages to lose the last of the 2 seats they have out of 80 in UP, not only will the Congress become the laughing stock in the country but will be out of UP politics as well. Rae Bareli is not just a seat but an intrinsic part of Congress and more importantly Nehru-Gandhi legacy and due to the above mentioned factors, Congress has sensed it can lose the bastion. Sonia Gandhi taking the challenge in Rae Bareli is indicative of the desperation of Nehru-Gandhi family to save this legacy seat. However, it is likely to be an uphill task.