Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Reluctant Rahul Gandhi finally steps in Raebareli to keep family flag high

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New Delhi, May 3: Fursatganj airstrip in Raebareli was buzzing with activity on Friday morning. Luxurious chartered flights touching down, one after another. It seemed like a venue for a family reunion — Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hugging, patting and greeting each other after alighting from the aircraft with senior leaders Ashok Gehlot and K.C. Venugopal standing at a close distance, the aides hurriedly pacing to ensure that logistical arrangements were in order.

The Congress had kept the suspense going over whether or not Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would contest from Amethi and Raebareli, till the early morning of the last day of nomination filing. The declaration came with a twist, Rahul Gandhi opted out from Amethi, deciding not to take on a feisty sitting MP and Union Minister Smriti Irani and moving to his mother’s erstwhile seat, an adjacent Raebareli. From Amethi, an old-time family loyalist, Sonia Gandhi’s representative Kishori Lal Sharma was named as Congress candidate.

During election time, since it is actually people who choose their representative, it becomes important what people perceive, believe and talk about a leader.

It is being talked about in political circles, including Congress, that neither Rahul Gandhi nor Priyanka Gandhi was willing to take on Smriti Irani. It doesn’t matter whether this is right or wrong because this is fast percolating in popular perception.

Contesting from Amethi and losing to her for the second time would have huge repercussions for Rahul Gandhi. The same applies to Priyanka Gandhi. What if she someone whom Congress has for long been projecting as their “Brahmastra”, loses to Smriti Irani? This was something, which Congress would dread to even dream of.

The problem with Congress is that the much-delayed decision, suspense, speculation and source-based information are giving the impression that Rahul Gandhi is a reluctant candidate and was forced by the circumstances to contest from Raebareli.

It now seems that Amethi is now a cakewalk for the BJP in Amethi, the only suspense for Amethi would be what voting percentage and margin Smriti Irani wins. Kishori Lal Sharma, originally from Punjab, has been the Gandhi family’s representative in this region for decades but it is also a fact that he is not particularly liked by many Congress workers and supporters.

The BJP surely has a reason to be happy. An early indication of how BJP’s campaign is going to be against Rahul Gandhi in Raebareli can be observed from what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his very first election rally on Friday. PM Modi used Rahul Gandhi’s often repeated assertion to mock him “Daro Mat, Bhago Mat (Don’t be afraid, don’t run away)”.

PM Modi said much before the announcement of the elections he had predicted that top leaders, due to fear of losing, were unwilling to contest the Lok Sabha election, some choosing a safer Rajya Sabha route and some abandoning the idea. Sonia Gandhi chose to give away Raebareli and be a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan.

Though all members of the Gandhi family and party president Mallikarjun Kharge were present when Rahul Gandhi filed the nomination, Raebareli is going to be a tough contest for him. In the last parliamentary election, Sonia Gandhi’s victory margin dropped by almost half. The BJP has nominated the same candidate, Dinesh Pratap Singh, who had contested against Sonia Gandhi in 2019. The impression that Rahul Gandhi was an unwilling, reluctant candidate may make things a bit difficult for him.

In the 2022 Assembly election, Congress couldn’t manage to win even a single seat from the region. Sonia Gandhi did make an emotional appeal to people, earlier through a letter and now by siding with son Rahul in Raebareli.

Rahul Gandhi’s shift from Amethi to Raebareli spices up the poll campaign for the upcoming phases.

IANS

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