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Amethi: The house where the Gandhis live

Last updated on: April 30, 2014 23:00 IST

'The only time I don't swat flies is when Rahul visits this house in Amethi'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com in Munshiganj

'I know a lot of gossip, but I will take these secrets to my grave,' Majid, who owns a shop across the road from the guesthouse that Rahul Gandhi stays in when he visits Amethi, tells Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

Majeed looks forward to visits by the Gandhis. That's probably the only time he doesn't swat flies at his tiny paan and beedi shop that is across the road from the guesthouse in Munshiganj that Rahul Gandhi stays at when he visits Amethi, where he hopes to be elected for the third term.

Named ironically after the late Sanjay Gandhi, whose son Varun Gandhi is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from nearby Sultanpur, it is here that Priyanka Vadra and Rahul stay when they hit Amethi.

Just like the Gandhis' guesthouse at Bhuvemau in Rae Bareli, which is where Congress President Sonia Gandhi camps, this too has a small office, recently spruced up to allow for the campaign battle.

With Rae Bareli going to the polls on Wednesday and Amethi on May 7, Priyanka has been in and out of her mother and brother's constituencies in a campaign blitzkrieg since April 12. It was at this guesthouse that the Gandhis and Vadras went to when Rahul filed his nomination papers on April 12.

"We saw her children that day. Her husband was there too. But they never come out of the gates for a walk," says Majid. "Rajivji hote toh tehelne ke liye zaroor bahar aate. (If Rajiv Gandhi was alive he would have definitely stepped on to the road for a stroll.) These people get into cars with darkened windows, you can barely see anybody inside."

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Image: The guesthouse is said to have at least two suites which Priyanka Vadra and her family and Rahul Gandhi occupy.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'Once they leave it will turn into a bhooton ka bhavan'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

Rahul's win is directly linked to keeping Majid happy.

"The moment they arrive here, this place comes alive; sometimes senior leaders such as Captain Satish Sharma join them. Local Congress functionaries come here as well. There is no other paan beedi shop in the vicinity and their drivers buy from me."

"My income during those few days is more that what I make in a month," he says, but shies away from putting a figure to it. "It's like winning a lottery, except that I know my number is the winner."

He hopes Rahul will win. "If he doesn't, this guesthouse, which is just about functional when they are not here, will turn into a bhooton ka bhavan (a haunted house). I also like the buzz of people coming in and going out through those gates. And when the drivers come to pick up cigarettes or buy paan, they sit on this bench and I listen in."

"I know a lot of gossip, but I'm a Congressi and I will take these secrets to my grave. This much I will tell you, Rahul is expected here on May 2."

Ram Kripal Singh, who has come to buy cigarettes, says the gardeners and other hired help are from this village.

"A lot of households run because of this house," he says. "We owe everything to them."

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Image: The 20-km stretch from the highway to the guest house in Munshiganj is silken in its entirety.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'Nothing has been done in the last 10 years in Rahul's riyasat'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

The watchman at the gate is tight-lipped. He says he has been given strict instructions not to speak to outsiders. He opens the gate to allow a car to exit. Stocked at the back are cardboard boxes, presumably of packed food.

The gate shuts quickly, just enough time to see a large, but unimpressive pale pink main building with out-house like extensions.

According to reports, the building has at least two suites which Priyanka and her family and Rahul occupy.

Majid says Rahul hardly comes four or five times in a year except when it is election season. "We know he's going to be here at least two days before he actually arrives. There is a flurry of activity, vans going in with food supplies. Normally, there are two cooks, but when they come, four more are brought in."

If the abysmal roads in Amethi are a poll plank and every party has used it to effect at rallies, the 20 km stretch from the highway to the guest house is silken in its entirety.

Majid, whose stall is a few feet off the road, says this is why he hopes Rahul win. He says he knows nothing much has been done in the last 10 years in Rahul's riyasat (principality) but it is not really about development.

He is simply going to follow family tradition -- his grandfather voted for Jawaharlal Nehru from the Phulpur constituency in 1957 and every member of the family is only allowed to vote Congress.

"I will vote for Rajiv Gandhi. Now, that was one fine man. If, after Nehru there has been a magnificent leader, it is Rajiv. Rahul just happens to be his son."


Image: Majid, who owns a paan-beedi shop across the road from the guesthouse that Rahul Gandhi stays at in Munshiganj when he visits Amethi.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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