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Gandhi vs Gandhi: Who will come out on top?

Last updated on: April 28, 2014 19:58 IST

Gandhi vs Gandhi: Who will come out on top?

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Anita Katyal

While the Congress vice-president fighting an anti-incumbency wave is doing all he can to wrest power in the Gandhi stronghold, Amethi, political pundits believe that his estranged cousin, Varun, riding on a strong Modi wave will sail through in Sultanpur. Anita Katyal reports on their political battles.

Other than the fact that Sultanpur and Amethi are adjoining Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, both the seats are also seeing the Gandhi cousins battling it out. While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is seeking a third term from Amethi, what many consider as a Gandhi stronghold, his estranged cousin Varun Gandhi from the Bharatiya Janta Party has shifted from his previous seat of Pilibhit to Sultanpur.   

Given their pedigree, it is assumed that the two will sail through this election and while it is true of Varun, many believe that the same cannot be said about Rahul Gandhi. Fighting a strong anti-incumbency wave, the Modi factor and the attacks against his family, many believe that Rahul will find it tough to win the seat -- one that he has won emphatically in the last two elections.

On the other hand, Varun’s own persona and the Modi mania has ensured near-certain victory for the younger Gandhi. In fact, Varun is so confident of winning that he has been camping out in Delhi and is expected to return to Sultanpur only before polling day, May 7. 

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Image: Rahul and his estranged cousin Varun Gandhi are contesting elections from adjoining constituencies in Uttar Pradesh.


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'This has been a Gandhi bastion. It will continue to be so'

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Anita Katyal

Kaante ki takkar hai’, is a common refrain used in Amethi nowadays.

Considering the opposition that Rahul has been facing, it is no surprise that his sister Priyanka Vadra has been campaigning across the constituency, drumming up support for her brother. Considered to be more charismatic and bearing a remarkable resemblance to their grandmother Indira Gandhi, Priyanka often invokes the family legacy in her speeches even as she lashes out at Narendra Modi for his divisive brand of politics. She also hits out at her brother’s rival in the area, BJP’s Smriti Irani, saying the woman only does nautanki (drama).

But even as Rahul faces stiff opposition, there are still a significant number of Gandhi loyalists, especially among the minorities and old-timers. Last week, Priyanka’s nukkad sabhas around Mohana area in Shukla Bazaar in Amethi’s Jagdishpur created quite a buzz and excitement.

“This has always been a Gandhi bastion. It will continue to be so. We don’t care if Rahul Gandhi does not do anything for the constituency. We just want somebody from the Gandhi family to represent us,” said Mohammad Shahban Khan, a shopkeeper in Mohana.

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Image: Priyanka Gandhi has been extensively campaigning for her brother Rahul in Amethi.
Photographs: Rahul Gandhi's Facebook page

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'The Gandhis have given us an identity'

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Anita Katyal

His views are echoed by others in the area. “The Gandhis have given us an identity. Whenever we go out and tell people we are from Amethi, we get so much respect, as everybody knows the place because of this family,” added Jaffar Ansari while Maulana Ashraf Khan added, “We have seen Rahul and Priyanka growing up. Hum unke hain and woh hamare hain (we are theirs and they are ours).”

Others similarly added, “Jhatka zaroor laga hai but Congress hi jitegi (The Congress has been hit but they will only win).  After all, the party has roots here for the last 60 years,” said Vinay Pande.

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Image: Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, rallying people to vote for the Congress.
Photographs: Rahul Gandhi's Facebook page

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'See how jittery Priyanka has become... it speaks for itself'

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Anita Katyal

But amid the Gandhi chants and their supporters, one can also see a discontent brewing and a tilt in favour of the BJP, which can only help Smriti Irani. Hours after Priyanka campaigned in Shukla Bazar, Irani lashed out at against her, addressing her derisively as Mrs Vadra and challenged her to a public debate. “She has been saying that a lot of development work has been done in Amethi but this is all false. I challenge her to a public debate. I will respond to each of the points she has raised,” she had said.

Asked if she is confident about winning, Irani told Rediff.com, “You can see how jittery Priyanka has become… that should speak for itself.”

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Image: Smriti Irani speaks to a resident of Shukla Bazar during her campaign trail.
Photographs: Smriti Irani's Facebook page

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'We have ensured a victory for Rahul but what has he done for us?'

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Anita Katyal

And as the slugfest continues, several people, who were once considered as loyal Gandhi supporters have switched sides. Ajay Sharma, resident of Jamo village in Amethi’s Gauriganj assembly segment, said, “I have always supported the Congress. However, this time, I am in mood to vote for them. I will vote for Modi. We have always ensured an emphatic victory for Rahul but what has he done for us?”

Another reason for the positive tilt towards the BJP is the belief that the saffron power will be forming the next government. “When Rahul could not do anything for us when the Congress was in power, what can he do while sitting in the opposition,” argued Vijay Gupta, resident of Jamo village. 

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Image: Riding high on the Modi wave, Smriti Irani is giving Rahul Gandhi a run for his money in Amethi.
Photographs: Smriti Irani's Facebook page

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Varun ahead of his competitors

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Anita Katyal

While Amethi is witnessing a high-voltage contest, Varun is assured of a near certain victory in neighbouring Sultanpur. The general consensus among the people is that Varun is way ahead of his competitors, Amita Singh of the Congress and Pavan Pandey of the Bahujan Samaj Party.

And while there is a clear Modi wave in the area, Varun Gandhi is garnering support on his own accord. “After all, he is contesting here for the first time. We must give him a chance,” says Pradeep Agrari, resident of Murha village.

Mahendra Pratap Singh, Gaurav Pande and Arvind Kumar, residents of Motiaripur village, all admit that their outgoing MP Sanjay Singh did a lot of work for the constituency but have agreed they will not be voting for his wife, Amita Singh. “I admit there is an advantage in having a local person as your representative but this time, there is a Modi lehar. People here have great hopes from him,” said Pande while others nodded in agreement.

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Image: Varun Gandhi addressing a rally in Sultanpur.
Photographs: Twitter/Varun Gandhi

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