Business Standard

LS polls: Raebareli still Gandhi stronghold amid threat of Amethi redux

Dressed in a grey cotton suit and white trainers, Priyanka seeks vote for her bhaiyaa, Rahul Gandhi, as she has been doing for the past several days

Rahul Gandhi,rahul,Priyanka Gandhi,Priyanka

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi during a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, at Maharajganj in Raebareli, Monday, May 13, 2024. (Photo: PTI)

Ruchika Chitravanshi Raebareli
As she takes the mic to address a huge gathering under theblistering sun in Raebareli’s Gurubakshganj, Priyanka Gandhi starts by apologising for her sore throat. Understandably so. For the past few weeks, she has stationed herself in Raebareli, holding nukkad sabhas (neighbourhood gatherings) all day long as part of the election campaign. 
Gandhi dresses in a grey cotton suit and white trainers, sets the stage for her “bhaiyya” Rahul Gandhi as she has been doing for the past several days. “He is the only leader to have done a paidal yatra (journey on foot) of 4,000 kms from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. You will not find a better representative,” she says. 

Only this time, the Congress leader is also accompanying his sister in the Raebareli campaign. As he makes his way to the dais amid cheering and a dance performance, Rahul Gandhi exhorts the 100 year long relationship between his family and Raebareli.  He soon trains the guns on Adani-Ambani, for controlling the media and cornering the country's wealth under Modi’s raj. 

Rahul Gandhi chose to contest from Raebareli, known to be the Congress stronghold or gadh, giving up the Amethi seat which he lost to Smriti Irani in the 2019 elections. 

“Gadh to unka Amethi bhi tha. But they lost it. Sonia did not visit this place once since she won. She could not even spend her samman nidhi. Who's to say they won’t lose this one too,” said Pramod Mishra, a BJP worker in Raebareli. 

Mishra is here in the Lalganj district of Raebareli constituency for Uttar Pradesh’s Chief minister’s Yogi Adityanath’s rally. As young men holding the lotus banners and flags march shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, BJP’s poll pitch is quite clear. 

Dinesh Kumar, a driver from Maharajganj village who has ferried a BJP leader seems miffed with the present government, “Kuch kaam nahi hua hai yahan (no work has been done here),” he says. 

However, Mishra is quick to count ration, awaas, shauchalay and of course the Ram Mandir - free food grain, housing and toilets, as some of the major contributions of BJP which could sway things in their favour. 
Staunch Congress supporters disagree. “As long as a Gandhi stands from here, they will win,” Anuj Trivedi, a cement trader near Aihar village said. Trivedi said that most of the development work in Raebareli is courtesy Congress. 

“Here, the issues are being discussed, who has done work for this place and what development has taken place,” he says. 

The old-timers recall the jaal of highways that was laid and factories set up during the tenure of Indira Gandhi. “In 1977 she lost to Raj Narain but then won the following election. Now what we don’t have to see is whether Congress will win or not but the margin with which it will win,” Vinod Kumar, a mason from a nearby village said. 

Locals also credit the Congress with the setting up of the Modern Rail Coach Factory, but lament that it has not helped generate employment for locals except for the farmers whose land was acquired to set up the factory. A visit to the under construction Ganga Expressway showed that workers from West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha had come down for work but it was hard to spot anyone from the local city.  

A group of women, several of them past 60 years, taking a siesta under the shade of an oil press where they had brought their mustard crops for extracting oil, remember voting for everyone who stood from the Gandhi family o. All these past years. 

Fulvasa from the Beenjh village, 65, is undecided this time. After much prodding, she says that she would vote whoever gives her family a colony, by which she means a house. While hinting she may vote for BJP this time she says, “I am getting some pension, free ration. Even if we vote for Gandhi, raj toh Modi ka hi hai (the rule is Modi’s).” 

The oil press owner Devendra Singh from Garhi Dularai is quick to chime in. “I voted for Congress’s Sonia Gandhi last time, but not in this election. People are not happy that she has not visited her once after winning,” he says. 

Several however, feel that Raebareli has received step motherly treatment from the Centre. While an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has been opened here, locals complain that the number of beds were brought down from the originally planned 1000 to 300. “Yogi also shifted the Medical College from Raebareli to Gorakhpur,” Trivedi says. 

Much like other villages of UP, the big issue of farmers in Raebareli continues to be awara pashu - stray animals, destroying their crops.

Shailendra Tripathi from Aihar village is a farmer who says it is a “ghanghor samasya” (very serious problem). “Ek hara dana nahi bo sakte. Aap ghar jaati hain kam kar ke aur hum wapas khet (Can’t sow a single seed. You go home after work and we have to go back to the farm).”


Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: May 14 2024 | 11:26 PM IST

Explore News