Rae Bareli a Cakewalk for Sonia

As far as this constituency is concerned, the Congress can safely dismiss any threats to its chief’s victory from outsider candidates from BJP and AAP
Pradeep Kapoor Rae Bareli

For the people of Rae Bareli, AICC President Sonia Gandhi has already won the election. Only the results are yet to be announced. This was evident in the manner in which people lined up on both sides of the road, from Fursatganj Airport to the Collectorate, when Mrs Gandhi came to file her nomination.

The locals had turned up in huge numbers to greet Mrs Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, showering their convoy with rose petals and flowers. The crowd comprised women, children and school students who had come for a glimpse of Sonia Gandhi, who is contesting from this constituency for the fourth time.

Moved by the spontaneous response to her visit from the people, the elder Gandhi told the media after filing her nomination that she was always confident of the support of the people of Rae Bareli. Bal Mukund, owner of a TV repair shop opposite ITI (Indian Telephone Industry) said that there was no challenge to Mrs Gandhi as her family was responsible for bringing Rae Bareli on the world map. He added that whatever development took place in the constituency was due to the Gandhi family alone. The development of the region has also impacted the day to day lives of the people here, he claimed.

BD Yadav, who works in ITI as technician, said that although the condition of the industry was bad, and there has been a backlog of more than three months in employee salaries, people would still support Mrs Gandhi. But the fact remains that ITI was controlled by the Centre, and Mrs Gandhi should have taken more interest in it for better functioning. Yadav, hailing from Lalganj assembly constituency in the district where the Rail Coach factory was set up by Sonia Gandhi, said that more 1,400 persons gave their land up for the factory and received not only compensation but jobs for family member outside Rae Bareli.

When asked about the other candidates in the constituency, Yadav said that since Mulayam Singh Yadav had not fielded his party candidate, his supporters would vote for Congress, “When they are not serious in putting up good candidates against Sonia Gandhi, why should the people not vote for Congress?” Another resident Bala Pande said that people were disappointed by the absence of Priyanka Gandhi during the nomination, as people have always expected a bigger role for her in Indian politics. Remember an old incident in Rae Bareli, Pande said she had not forgotten how Priyanka Gandhi was instrumental in ensuring Congress candidate Capt Satish Sharma’s victory and Arun Nehru’s defeat. The BJP had fielded Nehru, the favourite to win till then, till Priyanka slammed him in one meeting, ensuring that he lost his deposit.

The visit of Sonia Gandhi is also important as she made it clear that she was in no mind to quit politics, as some were expecting because of her illness. When asked whether this would be her last elections, she replied with a defiant “why’.

Ram Prasad, an old pan-waala near the Collectorate, said that the people of Rae Bareli would definitely support Sonia because they do not want a repeat of 1977, when Indira Gandhi lost to Raj Narain, who took no interest in development here. He made it clear that there was virtually no challenge from BJP candidate and Supreme Court lawyer Ajay Agarwal.