Rama Krishna Sangem
Congress former president Rahul Gandhi contesting 2024 Lok Sabha elections from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh will be a morale booster to his party. If he finally takes this decision, it will also Congress party’s big bet on newly formed INDIA opposition coalition. Rahul Gandhi contesting from Amethi where he lost to BJP’s Smriti Irani in 2019 was told to media by newly appointed UP PCC president Ajay Rai on August 18, Friday.
We don’t know, how authentic is Ajay Rai’s statement or his standing within the party. If he made it out of enthusiasm, it may be brushed aside by the high command, which comprises Rahul too. Otherwise, this announcement will have to be taken seriously. By now, it appears to be a serious consideration from Congress leadership’s side. Ajay Rai also said, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi might contest from Varanasi, against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul Gandhi’s fighting from Amethi, besides his present seat, Wayand in Kerala will have great impact on Congress prospects elsewhere in 2024 LS polls. Samajwadi Party, a member of INDIA front welcomed the idea and said, Rahul can contest from anywhere. That means, SP will support Rahul here. In that case, Union Minister Smriti Irani will face direct fight with Rahul and test her chances.
In 2019, Smriti won from Amethi by a margin of around 55,120 votes against Rahul Gandhi. She got 4,68,514 votes, while Rahul secured 4,18,394 votes. There were 26 other candidates, none from either SP or BSP, major parties. All other remaining contestants got less than 7,200 votes each. This shows, this time too, Rahul will not have any SP or BSP rivals here. The fight maybe between Congress and BJP.
This time, Amethi is not that friendly seat for Congress. Of the five assembly segments that comprise Amethi LS seat – Amethi, Salon (SC), Tiloi, Gauriganj and Jagdishpur SC), all the four are represented by BJP MLAs while Gauriganj is held by SP MLA. Congress has not much of representation at the grassroots level. Gandhis mostly focus on national politics and never paid much attention to local politics of Amethi. They left it to local leaders. That harmed them most.
Test for INDIA experiment
Rahul won from Amethi three times before that – 2004, 2009 and 2014. Smriti Irani lost once – 2014. So, this time round, both Rahul and Smriti Irani will have a royal battle on their hands. More than that, it will be a test for INDIA front, if it can fold its ranks behind one single candidate – Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. For this, SP and AAP will have to cooperate with Congerss.
Priyanka Gandhi fighting from Varanasi may just be an idea – at least at this stage. Till now, sources in Congress were of the view that she might contest from Rae Barelli, her mother Sonia Gandhi’s seat. This time, Sonia may not contest as her health doesn’t permit her to canvass. Instead, Sonia may go to Rajya Sabha and still continue to chairperson of Congress parliamentary party.