New Delhi: The upcoming Lok Sabha contest at Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Congress vice-president Mr Rahul Gandhi’s constituency, will be different than other years. Instead of faceless opponents put up by other parties, this time the Gandhi scion will face poet-politician Kumar Vishwas of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and TV bahu-turned Parliamentarian Smriti Irani of the BJP.
While die-hard supporters of the Gandhis are not exactly losing sleep over the competition, they are not taking Mr Gandhi’s win for granted either.
In a family fortress, an election is often all about the margin. In 2009, riding on a UPA-1 wave, Mr Gandhi had defeated his nearest rival, Asheesh Shukla of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), by over 3,70,000 votes. He surpassed his 2004 margin by 80,000 votes, and increased his vote share from 66.2 per cent to 71.8 per cent.
Perceptions of his performance in this election will be linked to how he stands in relation to his own record.
Kumar Vishwas’ campaign, which began three months ago, has already raised the bar in Amethi.
His attacks are neither veiled nor respectful. He makes a point of mentioning that Congress president Sonia Gandhi went abroad to have her illness treated, not trusting Indian doctors and raking up huge bills. Who paid for them, he repeatedly asked his audience, pretending not to hear, until someone loudly says, “Janata ne diya (The public did)”.
While many admirers of Mr Vishwas’ oratory said they would still vote for Congress, there were a handful of AAP converts, young men like Moha-mmad Salim, who said, “After he spoke about dynasty and corru-ption, I understood everything. Mr Gandhi doesn’t pay attention, and the administration is corrupt.”
Meanwhile Ms Irani’s arrival in the maidan this week will surely add to the excitement and the confusion. With the election just about a month away, she is a late starter who will need to establish her persona, of which there seems little awareness here right now. She will undoubtedly rely on Mr Modi and “development”, murmurs about which can be heard.
But voters in the Gandhi bastion rejected 13 out of 15 Congress candidates in the 2012 Assembly. But in the Lok Sabha, it has always been a tale of loyalty dissolving disappoin-tment. And the bond is so strong that even Varun can’t ignore the Gandhi connection . — Scroll.in...