The HATHRAS incident has become a poll issue for the Congress at a vacant Assembly seat 400 km away, one that it last held in 1991. The reason isn’t surprising—this is the Bangarmau seat in Unnao whose rape-accused MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, was disqualified after being sentenced to life in prison.
The Bangarmau bypoll is scheduled for November 3.
With the other political parties yet to declare their candidates, Congress’s Aarti Vajpayee (54) is lone candidate canvassing in the area. And the issue of mahila suraksha finds prominent mention, both in her publicity material and her public speeches.
Congress’s top leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, have been aggressive against the Yogi Adityanath government over the Hathras incident.
“I start my every speech in nukkad sabhas with a conversation on the Hathras incident and I talk about this matter during door-to-door campaign too, especially while interacting with women and young girl voters. I narrate how a 19-year-old Dalit daughter suffered brutality and was cremated without the permission of her parents. Also, how Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra faced hurdles in meeting the victim’s family,” Vajpayee said. She is counting on women to vote for her.
But while speaking on incidents of rape and assault during her campaigning, Vajpayee does not take name of the former MLA directly.
She only refers to his alleged rape of a minor for which he has been awarded life sentence.
“I do not take his name. But I refer to that incident. I tell people that he (Sengar) was not suitable for election as mukhiya of the assembly constituency,” Vajpayee said.
When the Congress won from Bangarmau in 1991, Vajpayee’s father, Gopinath Dixit, was the candidate.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the Congress supported a Samajwadi Party candidate following a pre-poll alliance. In 2012, 2007 and 2002, it stood fourth.
Congress district president Subhash Singh said the party was avoiding targeting Sengar directly because the locals in general were not against him.
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