ON SEPTEMBER 9, Rahul Gandhi became the first member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to offer prayers at the Hanuman Garhi temple in Ayodhya since the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. He had also visited Kichhauchha Sharif dargah in neighbouring Ambedkar Nagar district the same day. Rahul was in the middle of his Kisan Yatra crisscrossing the state at the time.
Both Faizabad and Ambedkar Nagar will go to the polls on Monday but no Congress candidate is contesting from any of the 10 seats in these districts — and many local leaders say they are not sure how to answer peeved party workers. Some others, however, look at it as sacrifice for a bigger battle awaiting the party in 2019, although even they agree there is “disappointment” and “resentment”.
Six others districts — Azamgarh, Ballia, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Shravasti and Sant Kabir Nagar — voting in the remaining three phases do not have a single Congress candidate. All the seats are being contested by Congress’s alliance partner the SP. In all, these districts have 39 seats. In 2012, SP had won nine of 10 seats in Faizabad and Ambedkar Nagar, BSP bagging Rudauli in Faizabad.
Hawaldar Singh, Congress’s Azamgarh district president, said he has stopped going to the party office, fearing anger of local workers. “Main office chhod ke bhaaga bhaaga phir raha hoon. Worker baal nochne ke liye taiyar baithe hain (I am not going to the office; workers are ready to attack me),” he said.
“We had worked so hard for Sheila Dikshit’s roadshow. Even Ghulam Nabi Azad had appreciated our efforts for Rahul Gandhi’s khaat sabha, but we are not contesting a single seat here. Former MP Santosh Singh was willing to contest from Mubarakpur, where the BSP had won the last time, but we did not even get that seat. Workers are disappointed… We are still trying to meet Sonia Gandhi to tell her about our woes,” he said.
Unlike Azamgarh, Congress district presidents of Faizabad and Ambedkar Nagar said they supporting SP candidates keeping in mind “the bigger gains in 2019” Lok Sabha polls.
Ram Das Verma of Faizabad said, “There may be some resentment among those who wanted to contest but our target is to bring down the forces that have stooped to the level of speaking about kabristan and Kasab.”
The party’s Ambedkar Nagar district unit chief, Syed Mirazuddin, said, “Some were disappointed…but everyone has now accepted the command of the party.” Rahul Gandhi had begun his 2012 election campaign from Ambedkar Nagar, and also held a khaat sabha in Akbarpur back in September.