Amethi and Rae Bareli – the two traditional strongholds of the Congress party – voted in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections Monday, with political heavyweights Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Smriti Irani in the fray.
Over 57 per cent voter turnout was recorded in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. “The turnout till 6 pm was 57.33 per cent as compared to 56.92 per cent in 2014,” Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwarlu said. The turnout in Amethi was 53 per cent, while it was 53.68 per cent in Rae bareli. In the last general elections in 2014, Amethi recorded 52.38 per cent voter turnout while Rae Bareli saw 51.73 per cent.
This time, the Gandhi clan is facing tough competition from the BJP, with senior saffron party leaders visiting Amethi and Rae Bareli multiple times over the past months.
In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had rolled the dice by laying foundation stones for several public projects and also flagged off the 900th coach and Humsafar rake made by the Modern Coach Factory, which was once Sonia’s pet project.
In Amethi, charges have flown thick and fast, with the Congress accusing the BJP of trying to bribe voters and the BJP slamming the grand old party for taking the segment for granted. The BSP-SP-RLD alliance have chosen not to field a candidate in these constituencies to weaken the BJP’s vote share.
Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Polling schedule, results date, constituency-wise results, how to check live counting
Amethi- Rahul banks on Congress nostalgia, Irani screams Wayanad
Polling in Amethi began on a contentious note, with BJP candidate Smriti Irani alleging that Congress president Rahul Gandhi was “ensuring booth capturing”.
“Alert @ECISVEEP Congress President @Rahul Gandhi ensuring booth capturing,” the Union minister said on Twitter. She also tagged a video in which an elderly woman is seen alleging that her hand was forcibly put on the ‘panja’ (hand), election symbol of the Congress, though she wanted to vote for the ‘kamal’ (lotus), the BJP’s symbol.
In Amethi, where Gandhi is seeking re-election for the fourth consecutive time, Irani has put forth a tough competition. In 2014, Irani brought down Rahul’s victory margin to just over a lakh.
She also aggressively flagged Gandhi’s decision to contest from a second seat — Wayanad in Kerala — an insult to the people of Amethi.
“The people of Amethi had to bear with the missing MP for 15 years. A person who rode on the shoulder of Amethi and enjoyed power for the past 15 years, has decided to leave his supporters and file nominations from another seat because Congress workers know he does not have support,” Irani had said.
Meanwhile, Rahul has whipped up the Congress’ emotional connect with Amethi to counter the BJP and recently in a letter, the Congress chief has addressed the voters as part of his “family”.
Priyanka Gandhi has also canvassed for her brother in Amethi, greeting locals and addressing them as “family members” and recalling the old days when her father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, used to represent Amethi.
Rae Bareli- Sonia Gandhi competes with former Congress leader
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election for the fourth time from the Rae Bareli constituency, which has been a Congress pocket borough represented by Feroz Gandhi and Indira Gandhi.
Competing against her this election is former Congress leader Dinesh Pratap Singh, who recently joined the BJP. In 2014, Sonia defeated BJP’s Ajay Agarwal by over three lakh votes.
Top BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, have campaigned for Singh, trying to convince the voters to switch from “the family” to usher in growth.
From 2014 to 2019-What’s different this time
Amethi-In the 2014 general elections, riding on a Modi wave, BJP won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. But, Rahul managed to retain Amethi, albeit by a smaller margin. This time, however, his decision to contest from a second constituency has elicited much suspense regarding which seat he will forego if he wins from both.
While the BJP has called it a panic reaction in anticipation of defeat in Amethi, senior CPM leader Prakash Karat said the main Opposition party has “lost the plot” by deciding to fight against the Left instead of the BJP.
This is also Congress’ first Lok Sabha elections with Rahul taking over the party’s mantle from Sonia Gandhi. The elections will also be a test of Rahul’s leadership and future of the Congress after its drubbing in the 2014 elections, where it was reduced to just 44 seats.
Rae Bareli– To defeat Sonia in her trusted constituency, the BJP has projected it as a contest between ‘parivarvaad’ (dynastic politics) of the Congress and development.
Sonia has held tight to Rae Bareli since 2004. Former prime minister and the UPA chairperson’s mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, had represented Rae Bareli from 1967 to 1977.
Gandhi has only visited Rae Bareli twice this polling season — first to file her nomination papers and second for a rally when she attacked the BJP for making false promises. Much of the UPA chairperson’s poll campaign had been handled by Priyanka Gandhi, who has held public meetings and a roadshow.