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The Rediff Election Interview/Captain Satish Sharma

April 29, 2004

Congress politician Captain Satish Sharma is a happy man these days. His happiness flows from the fact that Rahul Gandhi decided to contest the Lok Sabha election from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

A long-time loyal friend of the Gandhi family, Sharma won the parliamentary election from Rae Bareilly in 1999. But this time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken his constituency; instead Sharma was given nearby Sultanpur.

In an interview to Deputy Managing Editor George Iype in his new constituency, Sharma spoke of how the 'Priyanka-Rahul effect' in the Congress is spreading across the country.

You didn't feel bad when you were told to vacate Rae Bareilly for Sonia Gandhi?

I was excited when I was told that Soniaji would contest from Rae Bareilly and Rahul from Amethi. It is the best thing to happen to the Congress. The Congress party is now energised because of Rahul's entry into the political arena. All the party leaders are feeling great.

But why is it that Priyanka Gandhi is not contesting the election?

Everyone in the Congress wanted Priyanka also to contest the polls. I am sure she will also contest the election at the appropriate time. In fact, I wanted Priyanka to contest from Sultanpur. I am going to develop Sultanpur for Priyanka just as I have developed Rae Bareilly for Soniaji. Whenever Priyanka wants to contest, I am ready to vacate Sultanpur for her.

So you are very committed to the Gandhi family?

Yes. I am. I am very proud to say that.

Will the electoral fortunes of the Congress improve because of campaigning by Priyanka and Rahul?

I tell you, the active election campaign by Rahul and Priyanka has made all the difference to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country. There is a Priyanka-Rahul wave across the country. People are fed up with the BJP and its leaders who claim India is shining when the ground reality is different.

The BJP has exposed itself during this election. Its India Shining campaign went out of steam after poor women were killed while clamouring for saris worth Rs 40 in Prime Minister Vajpayee's own constituency.

Did you choose to contest from Sultanpur because it is the neighbouring constituency of Amethi and Rae Bareilly?

Yes, that is true. In fact, the party high command offered me a seat either in Karnal or in Delhi. But I refused. I selected Sultanpur because I want to be in touch with the people of Rae Bareilly and Amethi. I have been working for the people of this region ever since the days of Rajiv Gandhi. I want to continue to serve the people of Amethi and Rae Bareilly along with Soniaji and Rahul.

Do you think a Congress-led coalition will come to power after the election?

The BJP's hype is all over. People now know the reality. The Vajpayee government will be rejected by the voters in this election. The Congress is all set to come back to power. There is a Congress wave across the country these days.

You have been the Member of Parliament from Rae Bareilly for the past five years. But the constituency is a picture of neglect, not development.

That is not true. Rae Bareilly is one of the most developed constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. I have done lots of developmental activities for the rural people. I have utilised most of my MP funds for the constituency's development. I have established the Congress party organisation at every nook and corner of Rae Bareilly.

What do you hope to do in Sultanpur if you win?

I am sure to win. I have a plan to set up a refinery and a number of educational institutes across Sultanpur to begin with.

Image: Uday Kuckian

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