Rae Bareli pitch report: Decades of Gandhi Legacy vs Modi-Yogi double engine

The excitement over electioneering in this Gandhi pocket borough of Rae Bareli in UP far outstrips the double whammy of scorching temperatures and an unrelenting summer sun as the prestigious seat is all set to hit the poll button on May 20.

Given the history of this constituency, it’s not just the result, but the margin of victory as well that will for sure be discussed, debated and dissected long after the dust settles down on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is steering the campaign for brother Rahul Gandhi. Addressing multiple street-corner meetings in a day, she isn’t missing a single opportunity to remind voters about her family’s century-old ties with the constituency — her campaign motto of ‘Sewa ke sau saal’ (100 years of public service) being harped on repeatedly.

“My great grandfather Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru came to Munshiganj (in Rae Bareli) in 1921 to express solidarity with the agitating farmers. He evolved into a leader on the pious soil of this land, thanks to the people here,” said Priyanka at a rally.

The Gandhi family’s more than seven decade-long “electoral bond” with Rae Bareli dates back to RahulPriyanka’s grandfather Feroze Gandhi, who had won the seat in 1952 and 1957, and grandmother Indira Gandhi, who started her long association with this seat in 1967. She also suffered a stunning loss to socialist Raj Narayan in 1977, but reclaimed it in 1980.

Thereafter, two relatives of the Gandhis — Arun Nehru and Sheila Kaul — had two terms each while family friend Satish Sharma won the seat in 1999. Sonia, who made her LS debut in 1999 from Amethi and Ballari, moved to Rae Bareli in 2004 and won five times in a row.

At the other end of the spectrum, BJP candidate Dinesh Singh, a minister in the Yogi Adityanath govt and who had lost to Sonia in 2019, is relying on his party’s “development without a bias” plank. His team of volunteers is trying to assuage voters who are upset over what they perceive as missed opportunities despite the constituency repeatedly sending political heavyweights to Parliament for decades.

In his speeches, Singh attacks Rahul for ignoring the contributions of his grandfather. His other refrain is: “Rahul changes his home the way people change their clothes,” in an obvious allusion to the Gandhi scion moving from Amethi to Rae Bareli. Singh calls himself “Rae Bareli ka beta, who will remain available to the people 24x7, 365 days a year”.

Singh was very close to the Gandhis when he was with Congress from 2009 and 2018. He and his four brothers were the Gandhis’ go-to men in Rae Bareli, managing Sonia’s elections. Their bungalow ‘Panchvati’ is still seen as a power centre, whose influence grew after the demise of local strongman Akhilesh Singh, who represented the Sadar seat between 1993 and 2012.

Despite being sent to the Vidhan Parishad twice — in 2009 and 2016 – by the Congress, Singh’s ties with the first family were strained after he was suspended from the party in 2018 for allegedly assaulting a local party office-bearer. He soon joined BJP, which fielded him as a challenger to Sonia in 2019. The move worked partially as Singh reduced Sonia’s margin from 3 lakh to 1.67 lakh.

That BJP is dead serious about putting up a good fight against Rahul can be gauged from Union home minister Amit Shah’s call to local party workers that a win in Rae Bareli will be equivalent to 400 seats. After addressing a rally in Singh’s support, he took him to local SP MLA Manoj Pandey’s house to enlist his support. Pandey was one of the half-a-dozen SP MLAs who voted for the BJP candidate in the recently-held Rajya Sabha polls. However, Pandey is yet to join BJP formally.

Development: Your word against mine

While the Gandhis reiterate their long association with the constituency, there are many in Rae Bareli who talk of “dilemma over discontinued development”, referring to the projects started by Sonia Gandhi while she represented the constituency during the UPA days 2004-14), which were later pushed to the back burner.

Some residents say the pace of projects during those days was fast and that included the Rail Coach Factory in Lalganj and AIIMS Rae Bareli. However, things changed after UPA was voted out. The bed strength at AIIMS was downsized from 960 to 600 and the temporary OPD started in 2014 was gradually shut down. The Rail Coach Factory plan was was also trimmed.

“The double-engine govt may have launched many new projects for Rae Bareli, but public memory isn’t so short that the works undertaken by the MP will get undermined,” says advocate MP Singh.

Bhure Lal Shukla, however, lists Rae Bareli’s improved road connectivity with Kanpur, Varanasi, Prayagraj and Ayodhya in the past seven years as big achievements. “Ram temple is no small achievement. Modiji deserves another chance to put things in order in the nation,” he adds.

“Rae Bareli is a large joint family that includes those opposing Rahul Gandhi,” says Preeti Shukla, daughter-in law of Gaya Prasad Shukla aka Guruji, whose family has been associated with the Gandhis for decades.“I remember how Dinesh Singh used to run errands for Sonia Gandhi. He may be a big leader now, but he cannot be compared to Sonia or Rahul,” she adds.

Water crisis is also a huge issue, both for farmers and city residents here, and many are looking for a candidate who can address this.

Eye on the future

For several young voters, their future is more important than the legacies of Congress or BJP. They are weighing both parties on employment, cost of education and price rise. “I had applied for the postgraduate teaching entrance in 2022, but it is yet to be held. Private schools in my village pay a meagre Rs 1,500-2,000 while those in the city do not pay more than Rs 7,000, which is not enough. So, I am sitting at home and helping my father in his farmland,” says Neetu Yadav, a resident of Sareni, who is the first person in her family to earn a master’s degree.

Rahul Kumar in Harchandpur works at a petrol pump in Lucknow to support his farmer father. “Earlier, our small field gave enough produce to feed us, but not anymore. The input cost of agriculture has gone up significantly because of rising fuel prices. Procuring good seeds and fertilisers is also making us spend more,” he says.

rae bareli pitch report: decades of gandhi legacy vs modi-yogi double engine

Caste matrix

Apart from issues related to development, like in most other parts of the state, in Rae Bareli, too, the caste equation holds much sway over the electorate, with Thakur (Rajput) voters continuing to dominate the fortunes of candidates. In fact, Indira lost in 1977 primarily because the Thakurs voted for socialist Raj Narayan, say old-timers. In 2019, the community consolidated behind Singh, which saw a significant drop in Sonia’s victory margin.

The Yadavs also have their pockets of influence. In the 2022 UP assembly elections, SP had won four of the five seats that come under the Rae Bareli parliamentary constituency — Bachhrawan, Harchandpur, Sareni and Unchahar. With SP an alliance partner of Congress this time around, three of the four MLAs are campaigning for Rahul, while Unchahar MLA Manoj Pandey drifted towards BJP during the Rajya Sabha elections this year.

Congress turncoat and incumbent BJP MLA Aditi Singh represents Rae Bareli’s fifth assembly segment (Sadar). Her ties with ‘Panchvati’ are not really great and she accused Singh’s younger brother of orchestrating an attack on her cavalcade in 2019.

The presence of a sizeable Brahmin, Dalit and Muslim voters complete the Rae Bare caste matrix.

On how the contest has shaped up thus far, political commentator Vijay Vidrohi says: “The story of Rae Bareli may appear as a battle of two challengers. The first (Rahul Gandhi) is challenging the might of PM Modi and BJP network. The second (Dinesh Singh) is challenging Rahul Gandhi, but in the underlying layers, caste fault lines do exist, with BJP banking on social engineering at a micro level.”

Be that as it may, BJP candidate summed up the fight as: “It’s Sonia ka beta vs Rae Bareli ka beta.”

For more news like this visit TOI. Get all the Latest News, City News, India News, Business News, and Sports News. For Entertainment News, TV News, and Lifestyle Tips visit Etimes

OTHER NEWS

10 minutes ago

Team of 15 kayakers are desperately searching for British extreme paddler Bren Orton, 29, who's missing feared drowned in Swiss river accident - as heartbroken family admit, 'it's not looking good'

11 minutes ago

'I'll start panicking': Comedian Bobby Lee says he doesn't know how much money he has, what his mortgage is, or even how to pay his phone bills— 3 ways to deal with financial reality

11 minutes ago

Rep. Elise Stefanik demands sanctions on ‘illegitimate’ ICC over Netanyahu arrest warrant bid

11 minutes ago

WATCH: One Liverpool player refused to clap when Jurgen Klopp walked alone through guard of honour

11 minutes ago

‘Battlelines’ drawn ahead of election as voters likely still ‘unconvinced’ by both parties

11 minutes ago

OpenAI pulls ChatGPT AI voice over its resemblance to Scarlett Johansson in the movie 'Her'

11 minutes ago

iOS 18 rumored to give Siri a massive AI boost — here's what it means for you

11 minutes ago

South Africans must brace themselves for a massive hike in electricity prices

12 minutes ago

Body fat percentage beats BMI in predicting obesity-related health risks, study says

12 minutes ago

"We're not gonna let him do whatever he wants" - When two legendary NBA centers showed they were prepared for a rookie Shaquille O'Neal

12 minutes ago

ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu, Hamas Leader Sinwar

12 minutes ago

Supreme Court rejects an appeal from a Canadian man once held at Guantanamo

12 minutes ago

Magashule is a champion of the poor, says Sanco Free State

12 minutes ago

Ten Hag left ‘very pleased’ with resurgent £85k-a-week United man who’s in the running for POTY

12 minutes ago

Report: Anthony Davis Played Big Role In Lakers Firing Darvin Ham

12 minutes ago

Gaël Monfils: ‘I’m getting a little bit old. People forget that I still have it’

12 minutes ago

Storms damage homes in Oklahoma and Kansas. But in Houston, most power is restored

14 minutes ago

Michael Cohen says he stole from Trump's company as defense presses key hush money trial witness

14 minutes ago

City of Dallas celebrates AAPI heritage in first-ever festival

15 minutes ago

Gen Z bosses on the 6 misconceptions people have about them in the workplace: ‘We see these stereotypes getting in the way'

16 minutes ago

Memorial for Kelowna crane collapse nears fundraising goal

16 minutes ago

Filmmakers Launch AI Studio Late Night Labs With Help From Natasha Lyonne & Angel Manuel Soto

16 minutes ago

Breaking Baz: Morfydd Clark & Billy Howle Lead Hot Theater Productions In London Dubbed The Angry & Young Season

16 minutes ago

Jacob Zuma banned from running in South Africa's election

16 minutes ago

Trump's New York criminal hush money trial continues into a fifth week of testimony

18 minutes ago

Treasurer Jim Chalmers faces a VERY awkward question on Q+A

18 minutes ago

Donald Trump's stunning aide Margo Martin puts on a VERY leggy display in a white mini skirt as she heads to former President's hush-money trial

18 minutes ago

Shirtless Bear Grylls hits the beach in Costa Rica with his lookalike son Jesse, 20, after wrapping filming on new Netflix survival show Bear Hunt

18 minutes ago

Ginger job centre boss who compared bullying over his hair colour to the prejudice faced by black people was not being racist, tribunal rules

18 minutes ago

I am one of 100 people in world with condition that allows me to remember the day I was born

18 minutes ago

You'll never dance alone! Jurgen Klopp shows off his moves as he is mobbed by his players on night out to mark his Liverpool farewell - after also throwing shapes on stage alongside a rapping John Barnes

18 minutes ago

Three Positives From the Week of May 12th

18 minutes ago

Google, Meta warned that undersea internet cables at risk for Chinese espionage: report

18 minutes ago

New York Giants begin OTAs: Workout dates, what to expect

18 minutes ago

Aston Villa closing on deal to sign Ross Barkley from Luton

18 minutes ago

New York AG announces $2 billion settlement with crypto lender Genesis

19 minutes ago

Map shows worst areas for Japanese knotweed

19 minutes ago

Carnival Cruise Line warns passengers about a cruise-ship scam

19 minutes ago

How'd Pittsburgh Steelers Fall in ESPN 'Power Rankings'?

19 minutes ago

Governor: Ukraine strikes Russian base in occupied Luhansk's suburb