It's 5 p.m. and BJP workers have started gathering at the Alok Dhaba in Gauriganj, the district headquarters of the high-profile Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, to discuss the achievements of Union Minister Smriti Irani, who despite losing in 2014, has left no stone unturned for the area's development.
She's once again in the fray here against Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
"After losing elections no leader has worked in the way in which Didi (Irani) has worked," BJP leader Govind Singh Chauhan told IANS,
In 2014, Irani gave a tough fight to Gandhi, receiving over 3 lakh votes against the latter's 4.07 lakh votes.
Chauhan said Irani had visited Amethi for over 35 times in last five years while Gandhi had visited the area hardly 16-17 times.
Gyan Pratap Singh, owner of the Alok Dhaba, said that Irani has personally connected with the people of Amethi.
For instance, she has personally got over 50,000 people covered under a central government life insurance scheme, besides ensuring benefits under various other initiatives.
About 2 km from the Alok Dhaba, a five-room apartment is being readied for Irani in a two-storeyed building where she and her team will stay for over one-and-a-half months till the election process concludes.
"We are eager to host Didi," said the owner of the building, Rajesh Gupta.
On the flip side, there was quite some support for Gandhi too, with many accusing the BJP of stalling the projects of the previous Congress-led government at the centre.
Abhishek Sharma, a resident, said that the BJP halted a food park project initiated by the Congress in the area.
He also said that a trauma centre, which was planned for Musafirkhana, a small town in Amethi, about 20 km from Gauriganj, was later shifted to Jagadishpur, 30 km from here, at the instance of Suresh Pasi, the Housing Minister in UP's BJP government.
Krishna Kumar Tiwari, aka Pinku, a local BJP leader, said: "Pasi has not worked for the people of the area. He is only working for Jagdishpur (the assembly constituency from where he won in 2017)."
"A number of local BJP leaders, and even the Amethi in-charge Minister Mohsin Raza, have written to (Chief Minister) Yogi Adityanath against the shifting of the trauma centre from Musafirkhana, which falls just two km from the National Highway 56 while Jagadishpur is eight km from the highway," Tiwari pointed out.
Ashok Singh, a farmer begged to differ, noting that Irani had brought new schools, a Krishi Vigyan Kendra and a soil testing laboratory, among others, to the area, besides helping people whose houses or crops were destroyed in natural calamities.
BJP worker, Shyam Mishra said Irani had brought a common service centre to the area, which is helping in generating employment and providing banking as well as many other government services to the people.
Amethi, which has around 18 lakh voters, will go to the polls on May 6. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which are in alliance in UP, are not contesting from here and neighbouring Rae Bareli, represented by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The results of the seven-phased elections from April 11 to May 19 will be out on May 23.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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