'Amethi people will not leave the Gandhi parivar even if they do not meet them.'
In what could be described only as a jolt, Union Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Smriti Irani's 'Man Friday' Ravi Dutt Mishra, at whose home she used to stay whenever she visited Amethi, joined the Congress last month.
Mishra says he worked hard for the BJP and ensured Smriti Irani gave Rahul Gandhi a tough fight in the 2014 election, but post the polls, the party did not care for him.
"All the BJP workers who fought against Rahul Gandhi for Smriti Irani in 2014 have left her side. No one is with her now. Smriti Irani worked like a one-man show in Amethi. No accounts or facts, whatever Smriti says is right," Mishra tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
Why did you join the Congress?
The main reason for quitting the BJP was the wrong narrative they were setting on nationalism. The Congress adopted Jana Gana Mana as our national anthem and Vande Mataram as the national song and today, the BJP is calling them anti-national; I feel this is not right.
Secondly, the BJP does not treat its workers well. They use their party workers and abandon them. BJP workers do not get any dignity.
In 2014, I worked 24 hours a day with Smriti Irani. Before she contested the election in Amethi, the BJP would get only 50,000 votes. In the 2014 polls, the BJP got 307,000 votes.
I built up the party in Amethi, but nobody bothered to ask how I was doing in the party.
Today, I feel the BJP is in a weak position in Amethi. Rahul will win Amethi by at least 3 lakh votes.
If that is the case, why did Rahul Gandhi contest the election also from Wayanad?
He is contesting from Wayanad because he has to increase the Congress party's presence in south India.
To say that Rahul Gandhi will lose the elections from Amethi is baseless. He will surely win the Amethi seat.
So what gives Smriti Irani the confidence that she will win in Amethi?
The BJP is ruling at the Centre and state. It is easy for them to organise people and bring them for meetings. Therefore, she must be feeling that she will win. Money power is being used in a big way.
In her 2014 poll affidavit, Smriti Irani said she was a graduate, but this time she says she is not. Would you like to comment on that?
(Laughs) If it is a lie, then it is a lie. What more can I say than that?
Many leaders have left the Congress and are joining the BJP. You have taken a different route and joined the Congress.
As I told you, the narrative being set by the BJP is bad. What is happening is not good. It is not in the interest of our nation.
Sanatan Sanskriti is in India for thousands of years.
Every Indian's DNA is Hindu; be it Muslim or Hindu. How can we throw 25 crore Muslims of India in the Bay of Bengal? The answer is 'no', but the narrative that is being set by the BJP is on these grounds.
Do you feel the BJP is on a strong wicket in UP?
In Uttar Pradesh, the Mahagathbandhan will be in the number 1 position with the BJP coming in second. The Congress will be third.
Having said that, I will add that the Congress is increasing its base in UP. And you will see the results in the 2022 UP assembly elections.
If you are close to Priyanka Gandhi, why didn't you tell her that the Congress should have fought the election in alliance with the Mahagathbandhan?
If the Congress and the Mahagathbandhan would have come together in UP, then the BJP would not have won even 10 seats. But somehow this could not happen.
Now even Mahagathbandhan leaders feel they made a mistake by not taking the Congress along.
Smriti Irani has worked hard in Amethi by going every month to the constituency. Will her work not speak to voters this time?
Smriti Irani only showed reel life to the Amethi voter, not real life.
And if she says she did work on the ground, what work did she do? Show me some concrete result.
She only projected herself on TV that she worked in Amethi. She has managed the media well. Now she is going to BJP karyakartas's home, something she never used to do earlier.
You should have pointed out this to her rather than quit the party.
If she had listened to me earlier, I would have not left the BJP.
All the BJP workers who fought against Rahul Gandhi for Smriti Irani in 2014 have left her side. These are all young workers, but no one is with her now.
Smriti Irani worked like a one-man show in Amethi. Khaata na bahi jo Smriti kahe woh hi sahi (no accounts or facts, whatever Smriti says is right).
Was she not successful in getting her supporters from Amethi tickets for the assembly election?
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh got the BJP ticket from Tiloi in Amethi (and he won the election), but today he is opposing Smriti Irani. He openly speaks against Smriti Irani.
Many of Smriti Irani's supporters feel Rahul Gandhi will be defeated in Amethi because he is contesting the election from Wayanad.
Smriti Irani will be defeated for sure. She will get at least 1 lakh fewer votes this time from Amethi.
What has Rahul Gandhi done for Amethi in the last five years that guarantees his success?
The people of Amethi know they are known across the country because of the Gandhi family.
In Uttar Pradesh, there are 80 constituencies. People do not know the names of other constituencies except Amethi and it is because of the Gandhi family.
Amethi people will not leave the Gandhi parivar even if they do not meet them.
Every inch of development that has happened in Amethi is because of Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP has done nothing for Amethi. The only thing the BJP did was further the work on projects that were started by the Congress.
In 2014, wasn't there much anger against Rahul Gandhi on the ground?
In spite of that, he won the Amethi seat. Today there is sympathy for Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.
People of Amethi feel the Modi government is purposely harassing the Gandhi family and also Robert Vadra.
Even BJP supporters in Amethi feel that Modiji should not have raided the Gandhi family during elections. They feel that vendetta politics will backfire on the BJP.
But the income tax department and enforcement directorate are independent entities.
We know this, but the timing matters.
People living in the villages of Amethi feel that because elections are going on, the Modi government is targeting the Gandhi family.
Is it true that you have been promised an assembly ticket by the Congress from Amethi?
I have not been promised anything like that. I hope the Congress will be a part of the next UP government. They will form the government on their own or in the gathbandhan.