Rahul Gandhi Contesting From Raebareli


By Arun Srivastava

Narendra Modi expressing joy and taking jibe at Rahul Gandhi’s candidature from Rae Bareli shows that the man is overwhelmed  by overconfidence. His remark “Daro mat, bhago mat”, implying that Rahul left the Amethi seat out of fear, is simply empty electoral rhetoric wrapped in perception of joyous misreading of the moment.

His jibe, however, is also deceptive. Addressing an election rally in Bardhaman in West Bengal, Modi said: “I had said that Shehzada will lose the election in Wayanad. In fear of losing the seat, he will look for another seat to contest the election from. His party leaders were saying that he would come to Amethi. But he got so scared that he ran away from Amethi and is trying to find a way out in Rae Bareli. Tell him, “‘daro mat (don’t be scared)’”.

His remark on Sonia Gandhi re-entering Parliament through Rajya Sabha certainly does not behoove the political stature of a prime minister. Sonia has been on medication for long and prescribed restricted movement, naturally excluding her physical participation in the strenuous electoral campaigning activities for Lok Sabha. Modi’s remark on Sonia, “When a Congress leader quit Lok Sabha to enter Parliament via Rajya Sabha, I foresaw party’s imminent defeat”, is not only uncivil, but also politically immature and reflects his shakiness. Modi conveniently forgot the fact that Indira Gandhi too had been a member of Rajya Sabha from 1964 to 1967.

It is not that the saffron think-tank and ecosystem is unaware of the significance and efficacy of Rahul’s decision. There is no doubt that Amethi is identified with the Gandhis. But Rae Bareli carries cross-generational the Nehru-Gandhi legacy. In 2019, Rahul lost Amethi. That defeat, now inconsequential, is relevant only for records, and hardly for Rahul’s political potency. It is widely known that Rahul lost by 55,000 votes at the peak of communal polarisation of Hindus and post-Pulwama ultra-nationalism drummed up by the BJP-RSS ecosystem. Like much of India, voters of Amethi too were carried away in the ensuing emotions.

In sharp contrast, the voters of Rae Bareli did not allow themselves to be carried away by the communal rhetoric of Modi and continued to show their adherence to the Gandhi family. Obviously, this sentiment of the voters of Rae Bareli ought to be respected. There is no denying that Rahul’s decision to contest the election from Rae Bareli, historically linked to the Gandhi family for six decades now, has drawn attention to its VVIP legacy.

Rahul Gandhi’s grandfather Feroze Gandhi and his grandmother, former PM Indira Gandhi had represented the Rae Bareli seat since India became Independent. The illustrious seat has a rich history, with leaders like Arun Nehru, Sheila Kaul, and Satish Sharma, all associated with the Gandhi family, representing it in the past. Sonia Gandhi has held Rae Bareli four times between 2004 and 2019.

If the Congress had fielded some other candidate, the party would have sacrificed the legacy. Naturally, fielding Rahul from Rae Bareli instead of Amethi reflects the party’s strategic move. Not only it allows Rahul Gandhi to strengthen his hold on this Nehru-Gandhi bastion in the heart of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and electorally significant state, it also frees up Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra to concentrate on nationwide campaigns, with five phase of elections still to be held.

Rahul contesting from Rae Bareli has higher organisational stake. Modi has pinned his hope for future survival on Uttar Pradesh. However, the common people of the state have turned hostile to Modi. They want to defeat him. Realizing peoples’ mood, Rahul had agreed to Congress playing second fiddle Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party and accepted his offer of 17 seats out of 80. Rahul’s second constituency, Wayanad in Kerala, which delivered for him a landslide victory in 2019, is expected not to betray Rahul, because the stakes of the election are much higher than a single prominent candidate. It is Rahul’s urge and commitment to rejuvenate the party in Hindi heartland that has made him also contest from the heart of Uttar Pradesh.

Rahul staying away from elections in UP would have inflicted more harm to the party. His presence in the electoral battle would reinvigorate and energise the cadres and the party can strive for retrieving its old support base. Indications of revival of the traditional support base of Congress are already becoming evident, with the coming together of Muslims, Dalits, EBCs and upper-caste Brahmins and Rajput, despite having a Rajput chief minister in Yogi Adityanath.

In the message to voters, Sonia Gandhi tried to identify herself with the feelings of the voters of Rae Bareli. She said: “My family in Delhi is incomplete without you. It completes when I come to Rae Bareli and meet all of you. My ties with you are very old. I have inherited these ties as a good fortune from my in-laws.”

Rahul not in the fray from Amethi, is certainly not the guarantee of Smriti Irani winning the seat for the second time. Absence of Rahul will turn the voters averse to the polling exercise. This will adversely affect Irani. With the expected challenger not in sight, Irani will find the going tough. Rahul choosing Rae Bareli has in fact enhanced the historical, emotional, and electoral significance for the Gandhi family compared to Amethi. With Sonia moving to Rajya Sabha, Rae Bareli must have a strong and prominent face from Nehru-Gandhi family and Rahul suits the role perfectly. Moreover, Rae Bareli also understands the need for shouldering the immense political responsibility to keep the flame of the Nehru-Gandhi’s electoral fortunes alive, and thus shape India’s secular democratic destiny altogether, with which the Nehru-Gandhis are intimately connected.

Smriti Irani, who had expected a fierce electoral fight, heaped scorn on Gandhi and described him as an escapist. But the bare fact is she is scared of the Congress candidate KishoriLal Sharma, as the mood of the Amethi voters is hostile and belligerent. A safe passage for Irani could not at all be predicted. If local feelings are to be respected, he would emerge as the rallying point for diverse political force opposed to Irani.

Saffron ecosystem has indulged in a nasty game. It has been trying to portray Priyanka Gandhi as a victim of her brother’s ambitions The BJP leaders are lamenting that Congress did not provide a safe seat for her; that it has disappointed her supporters and fans. An attempt is being made to project Priyanka as the rival of Rahul and having her own independent supporters and followers. However, the people of Uttar Pradesh see through the saffron sham. A senior retired police officer ridiculed this design of saffron ecosystem with the terse comment: “It is beyond imagination that supporters and saffron ecosystem could stoop so low.” (IPA )


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