The once-bitten-twice-shy Congress is taking extra measures to ensure victory of Gandhis in Rae Bareli and Amethi.
While a battery of some 100-odd erstwhile left activists have been deployed to campaign extensively for Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, Avantika Nehru, daughter of former MP Arun Nehru, has been roped in at Rae Bareli.
The Congress is getting its act together, following reports of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar making extra efforts in Amethi to dislodge Rahul Gandhi, who had had a tough time in the 2014 elections as well. In fact, he had scraped through Amethi then with a margin of just over 100,000 votes, which was very low compared to previous victories of the Gandhi family in the region.
For the first time in the past 15 years, the Congress has deployed workers from outside to campaign for Rahul and Sonia in these two constituencies. The team of over 100 youth workers, formerly from Left student organisations, who have joined congress recently, have been visiting remote villages in Amethi to root for Rahul. Priyanka herself formally introduced Avantika to voters in Rae Bareli in a meeting at Sareni block on Friday. Arun Nehru's daughter will camp in the constituency till Saturday evening. Her father has thrice been an MP from there.
In Amethi, the team of youth, mainly former student leaders of Allahabad University's All India Student Association (AISA), has been concentrating in remote villages. According to one team member, Shahnawaj Alam, who joined teh Gramd Old Party a few months ago, BJP candidate Smriti Irani has focussed in urban areas only, while the congress is deep-rooted in rural areas. He said that with every team of eight to ten youths, there is one local Congress worker. The party's Tez Bahadur Singh said while there is no challenge in Rai Bareli, the BJP and Smriti Irani have worked very hard in Amethi.
After being defeated in 2014, Smriti has been in constant touch with the people of Amethi and has invested a lot from her MP fund. Besides, the BJP has four MLAs out of five under the Amethi Lok Sabha seat. To counter this, Congress has been holding joint campaign meetings with Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) leaders. The SP-BSP alliance has not fielded its candidates in either Amethi or Rai Bareli.