“Ye kabhi wahaan gayee thi kya?” She (Irani) contested from Chandni Chowk. Has she visited that place again? “Smriti Irani is coming to Amethi to fight Rahul & not for the people,” Priyanka Gandhi alleged while campaigning for Rahul Gandhi in Amethi on 29th April 2014.
Smriti Irani for whom confrontation brings out the best in her took cognizance of the remark. She and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has confidently taken the battle to where it matters the most, Amethi! A constituency represented by the first family of Indian politics and its kitchen cabinet in most Lok Sabhas. Prime Minister, Modi has blown conch in April 2014 itself in a spirited rally endorsing his “choti behen” of living up to the expectations in the tasks assigned to her. No doubt, latest task is to snatch Amethi from Gandhi dynasty.
BJP and in particular union minister Smriti Irani, has made all right moves post may 2014 in Amethi and are confident of achieving their target. Unlike Chandni Chowk in 2004, here in Amethi, Smriti Irani made frequent calculated visits to Amethi and effectively changed narrative among constituents and rural youths in particular, and has ignited hope of transforming their lives for the better.
From taking keen interest in upgrading railway station in Gauriganj with separate counter for railway inquiry and reservation, to more than 50,000 people in the constituency being insured under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, to holding Kisan panchayats, jan sabhas and persuading the centre to buy damaged grains at appropriate price; the minister has pressed all right buttons relentlessly. Also, portion of Irani’s MP local area development (MPLAD) fund has also been utilized in Amethi for purchasing ambulances.
Not expecting Irani’s continued onslaught, Rahul Gandhi initially looked bit jittery and made many catch up visits to family bastion. Interestingly, Smirti Irani predicted this way back in 2014, and she roared in October 2017, “In 2014, I had promised the people of Amethi and of the country that by my repeated visits to Amethi I will ensure that the people would be seeing more of Rahul Gandhi”.
Smriti Irani’s initiatives lead to skill development ministry along with the local BJP unit to identify five boys and girls from all 981 polling booths in the constituency. These 4,905 young boys and girls will be trained under national skill development mission.” It is like grooming spokespersons for the development agenda and entrepreneurship in each polling booths.
In October last year, Jung Bahadur Singh, former MLA who was managing Rahul Gandhi’s poll plans joined BJP along with 60-70 village pramukhs is a matter of structural change and courage. More than the significance of the ability of Jung Bahadur Singh to bring votes, its open display of constituents to show their urge to identify with a political party other than the famous dynasty, was just unthinkable few years ago.
Amit Shah visiting Amethi in October 2017 and flagging off several welfare schemes and initiating work for collectors office in Amethi is like showing the mirror to Gandhi’s about their listless performance.
In February 2018, Smriti Irani tweeted arrival of “Amethi pickles” a self-help group (SHG) production assisted by the ministry of skill development was ridiculed by her opponents as “Achaar” production which she retaliated effectively by saying, yes we manufacture ‘Achaar’ and you produce ‘brasthachaar’
As a textile minister Smriti Irani at a groundbreaking ceremony and the foundation stone laying of the Agriculture Science Centre at Kathaura in Jagdishpur held on 13th April 2013 she said: “The relationship between you and me is important for me and I am doing all that is possible to be true to this bond.”
“In four years, more than 80 development works have been undertaken, including Rs 55 crore for Swachhata mission to one constituency or making 180 villages open defecation free …they all will testify as to how this area had been deprived of development (till now),” thundered Irani on 14th April 2018.
Leading daily also reported about distributing cows to 10,000 families of the constituency, 2000 families each in 5 assembly segments under corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the fertilizer giant.
From distributing saplings to building schools and hospitals, helping out SHG’s, being part of farmer agitations, upgrading railway stations and stop-over for long distance trains in smaller stations, bringing in projects from ‘namami gange’ and most importantly being regular visitor to Amethi and enjoying goodwill of the constituents “ye bahu apni hein” Smriti Irani has not spared any breathing space to Gandhi scion and literally smothered him in his own courtyard.
Midterm appraisal of Irani’s persistent efforts came in March 2017 when Congress lost all five assembly seats in Amethi and BJP won four of them, sweet spot being Amethi where Garima Singh of BJP defeated Gayatri Prasad of the Samajwadi Party (SP), relegating Ameeta Singh of Congress to the third spot. Ameeta Singh is the wife of sitting Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Assam Sanjay Singh, who is also descendant of a royal family of Amethi. Ever since UP Assembly polls came to an end, Rahul Gandhi has not visited his constituency. He was last seen in Amethi during the UP election.
“Earlier people would go to Munshiganj guest house even when Rahul Gandhi was not in Amethi. Now they go to Smriti Irani’s office in Amethi. The people know that if they just drop their message at her office, their work will be done,” the youth told leading news agency.
But wily strategist’s in Congress and Rahul Gandhi himself seems not perturbed a bit by Union minister Irani’s draftsman approach and have plans in place to deceive her convincingly. Rahul Gandhi is the official boss, showing some seriousness in dethroning PM Modi, flanked by hoard of regional satraps, being careful enough not to allow Congress slip out of power in Karnataka even though people booted out, being jubilant over scattered by-poll victories where most wins are by his perceived allies, is certainly thinking big.
Rahul Gandhi is perhaps thinking big! Raebareily is bigger than Amethi by little more than 1500 square kilometers. His initial countering visits to Amethi to negate Irani’s exponentially expanding footprint have gone totally missing following BJP winning four of five assembly segments in Amethi and Congress drawing a frank blank. Time and again he has proved to nation that whenever battle heats up, he successfully avoids drubbing by fleeing the scene, which he amply demonstrated in assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Himachal, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Tripura and in recently concluded Karnataka elections.
As Rahul Gandhi is the elected president of the grand old party, and Sonia Gandhi is not in pink of her health, Rahul Gandhi will contest from Raebareily and will keep a 1-0 tally in his favor against Irani at Amethi. Congress cabal will justify Rahul Gandhi representing Sonia Gandhi’s constituency as traditional president of Congress contests from there and nothing to do with Smriti Irani factor and shall portray she is a non-issue in Amethi. In nutshell, Smriti Irani’s dream of defeating Gandhi scion at Amethi will remain a dream, though she will represent Amethi in 17th Lok Sabha.
Is Mothership safe?
Compared to Amethi, prospects of winning from Raebareily for Rahul Gandhi is far brighter. He is relatively new to the constituency, Sonia’s poor health and Priyanka Gandhi’s late emotional entry may still connect people and might carry an element of sympathy to Gandhi dynasty.
However, is it absolutely safe for Rahul Gandhi to contest from Raebareily? The answer is strict NO. If BJP top brass wants to defeat Gandhi scion from Raebareily it is very much possible.
BJP cannot achieve this objective with a conventional wisdom of electoral politics. Turncoats and established politicians are unlikely prospects to breach this deft territory. Unlike Bihar which votes on caste lines, adjacent Uttarpradesh traditionally votes against certain caste preferences. This fact is the huge advantage of Gandhi’s, not identifying with any caste or religion officially.
It’s well within abilities of modern-day “Chanakya” Amit Shah to find a suitable candidate to defeat Gandhi at Raebareily. The ideal candidate should be a naïve, who do not have any identification with a particular section of the electorate of Uttar Pradesh, somebody who can be identifiable with every caste group, well educated, younger than Gandhi, has established credible selfless work at grass root level, fiercely nationalistic, incorruptible and above all apolitical. Though author may sound hypothetical in describing ideal candidate to defeat Rahul Gandhi at Raebareily, there are a few… yes there are a few out there and Amit Shah certainly needs only one of them.
Literally, not a single safe seat is left for the dynasty in Hindustan, though once Mizoram looked safe, courtesy enmeshed missionary network but 24 of the 40 assembly segments are tribal reserved and duo of Rammadhav and Himanta Biswa Sharma are deterrent forces. Southwards Rahul Gandhi can safely contest in a few seats of old Mysore region in Karnataka only if his newfound ally JD(S) supports wholeheartedly or if TRS boss aligns with Congress then there are a few Muslim dominated seats in Telangana where Rahul Gandhi should fancy his chances of entering 17th Lok Sabha.
Infamous comments made by Rajnarain in 1977 after famous Raebareily victory against Indira Gandhi, certainly helped the family to hang on to its bastions, is more than four decade old now and has yielded enough. It appears in 2019 dynasty will lose Amethi without a fight and Raebareily is no more a holy grail, can be cracked.
Yet, even after lowest ever tally in Lok Sabha, losing states after states, entangled in legal hurdles and not a single safe seat to contest for a certain victory, one need to appreciate luteyns ability to project serial loser as the future prime minister and Congress’ ability to spread malicious campaign across the country through various dedicated agencies against most hardworking, non-corrupt, performing and delivering prime minister is truly remarkable.