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Sonia strides to victory with record margin

Sharat Pradhan in Rae Bareli | May 11, 2006 09:32 IST
Last Updated: May 11, 2006 15:52 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday won a resounding victory from the family bastion of Rae Bareli, which she reclaimed with a record margin of 4,17,888 votes.

Despite the all-time low voter turnout of just 43 per cent on May 8 when Rae Bareli went to the polls, Sonia literally hogged the bulk of the votes. Her two key opponents -- high profile Vinay Katiyar of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Raj Kumar Chaudhary of the ruling Samajwadi Party -- both lost their security deposit, polling less than 10 per cent of the total votes polled.

Another much hyped nominee -- the saffron-clad ousted BJP leader Uma Bharti -- was humbled with a paltry 6,500 votes.

Sonia had resigned from the Rae Bareli seat in March after she was accused of holding an office of profit, barred for all elected public representatives under the Indian Constitution.

While her victory was a foregone conclusion, the poor voter turnout on polling day had led to speculation about a fall in her victory margin of 2,40,000 votes that she scored in the 2004 general elections. However, she surprised all and sundry by taking her margin ahead by nearly double and creating a record of sorts.

Sonia's daughter Priyanka attributes the grand success entirely to her brother Rahul, who had led her mother's campaign.

It was only on the last day of the campaign that he was told by the Election Commission to leave the constituency as his presence would have violated the law disallowing outsiders enjoying government security cover to stay on in a constituency during any poll.

"It is all credit to my brother Rahul, who really worked very hard, went from door to door canvassing for our mother," Priyanka told reporters.

Rahul, on his part, gave all credit to "the people of Rae Bareli".

"It is the victory of my mother's dedication for her constituency and I would like to thank the party workers as well as ther people of Rae Bareli for once again reposing their faith in my mother in such a big way," Rahul said.

Meanwhile, it was a festive time in Rae Bareli with enthused party workers and supporters throwing colours at each other.

Even Rahul and Priyanka walked around with colours on their faces acknowledging the greetings of the teeming masses who were all over the streets in Rae Bareli singing, dancing amidst echoing slogans of "Sonia Gandhi zindabad" (Long live Sonia Gandhi) and "Desh ka neta kaisa ho; Sonia Gandhi jaisa ho" (How a national leader ought to be; should be like Sonia Gandhi).

An analysis of the voting pattern of the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency shows a distinct charateristic that women are not too keen to exercise their franchise.

Keeping this aspect in mind, Rahul, made it a point at every election meeting to make a special request to women voters to come out of their homes and vote for his mother.

Even Sonia had appealed to womenfolk to vote in large numbers, identifying herself as a woman, a mother and a grandmother.

However, Priyanka, Sonia's polling agent, was of the view that the low turnout was because the people had concluded even before voting that the Congress chief would win hands down as there was no formidable rival.

Scorching heat and absence of names of voters from the list at many places also contributed to low polling. During the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Rae Bareli had recorded about 48 per cent polling.

With PTI inputs 

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