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|September 29, 1999||
Constituency/ Rae Bareili
Rae Bareili's voters look for development, through the Gandhi family or not
The voters of Rae Bareili have maintained a strange 'love-hate' relationship with members of the Nehru family. They have elected Congress candidates ten times out of 13 Lok Sabha elections including one by-election. But now the electorate seems to have fully recovered from the hangover of the Indira Gandhi era, and is, in fact, looking for someone who could carry out developmental works in the constituency, whether a member of the Nehru family or not.
However, Congress candidate Captain Satish Sharma does not mince words when he proclaims himself the 'Hanuman' of the Nehru family, which was once synonymous with the electoral fortunes of Rae Bareili, even while talking about development of the region.
Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Arun Nehru, who won the seat twice in succession, in 1980 and 1984 as a Congress nominee and a Nehru family member, avoids the 'family' connection and instead harps on the Kargil victory and the charisma of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Out of a total of 23 candidates in Rae Bareili, only Gajdhar Singh of the Samajwadi Party can claim to be a local. Naturally, he does not fail to mention in his election meetings that Nehru, Sharma and BSP candidate Anand Prakash are all outsiders while he hails from Fatehpur.
Incidentally, in the last election, Samajwadi Party candidate Surendra Bahadur Singh had come second with about 30 per cent votes. However, this time the party has changed its candidate.
Similar is the position of the BSP candidate, who despite Dalits constituting 34 per cent of the electorate, is caught in a contest which is hardly fought on a caste basis.
The Congress, till the last election, was precariously placed with only one of the five assembly segments in its kitty, but former minister and BSP legislator from Sataon, Shiv Ganesh Lodhi, and Saraini legislator of the Samajwadi Party, Ashok Kumar Singh, joined the Congress to give a timely boost to its morale.
Dr Muslim, the sitting Samajwadi MLA from Tiloi,, also recently joined the Congress. Though Tiloi is in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, it falls in Rae Bareili district and Dr Muslim's entry could help the Congress's electoral prospects, it is felt.
The BJP, which has never boasted of a strong party organisation base here, suffered a jolt when its sitting MP Ashok Singh added to its woes by joining the Congress.
The presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in neighbouring Amethi, where she is a candidate, is also expected to help Captain Sharma's cause.
A striking feature of the election campaign in the constituency is the involvement of the daughters of Captain Sharma and Nehru. Sarika and Radhika, the two daughters respectively, are engaged in vigorous campaigning which includes extensive tours of the rural areas on foot. The trend started by Priyanka Vadra in Amethi has caught the fancy of the two daughters here as well. Subhadra Nehru, the BJP candidate's wife, is also campaigning extensively for her husband.
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