The Raebareli Sadar assembly seat was once synonymous with strongman and former five-time Congress MLA Akhilesh Singh, whose legacy was carried forward in 2017 by his daughter Aditi, who came back to India after studying abroad, and won the elections by a huge margin. Now, with Aditi switching sides, and contesting on a BJP ticket, the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have ensured Raebareli Sadar will be a keen contest in 2022.
In the 2017 assembly elections, Aditi Singh bagged around 1,28,319 votes from Raebareli’s Sadar seat when the Congress and SP were in an alliance, and the latter did not field any candidate against her. The BSP candidate secured around 39,000 votes while the BJP had around 28,000 votes.
There used to be a saying in Raebareli that whoever receives Akhilesh Singh’s support, will win hands down from the Sadar seat. Slogans such as ‘Akhilesh Singh Ki Baat Pe, Mohar Lagegi Haath Pe’ were quite commonplace in the last few elections. However, with Akhilesh Singh passing away in 2019, other political parties have cashed in on the seat.
Aditi, whose father Akhilesh Singh was fondly known as ‘Robinhood of Raebareli’, would be contesting this time without him. She had earlier said that she is not alone and the people of Raebareli were her family. A confident Aditi had even challenged Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi to contest from Raebareli Sadar seat against her.
Aditi Singh will be banking on the legacy of her father and the work done by her in the last five years of her tenure as an MLA as the BJP was never in a stronger position in this seat. This has also opened the game for the SP, which was the runner-up in elections before 2017, and this time, the party has fielded Ram Pratap Yadav keeping in mind the Yadav-Muslim community in the Sadar constituency. Yadav, who was in the jail for 22 months, was released on a bail a few months ago.
Although she was not available for immediate comment because of her busy campaign schedule, during her nomination a few days ago, when she was asked on how different was the situation this time from 2017, Aditi had said, “This time I am a BJP candidate and we are contesting elections under the guidance of respected PM Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath, definitely things will be good.”
On addressing the issues of public, Aditi said, “People are mine, they had voted for me. My late father had worked really hard for the development of Raebareli and people of this constituency. My issue is always the same to provide safety to the people of my constituency and my district. Things which are commonly heard in other districts, I will never allow them to happen here in my constituency. It is my only resolution that I have to keep people of my constituency safe. Last time, when I had filed my nomination, my father was standing beside me, however, now he is not there but still I am fighting for my people as my people have faith in me. I am confident that I will win by a huge margin this time also.”
Keeping in mind the Yadav-Muslim community in the Sadar constituency, SP’s Ram Pratap Yadav is being viewed as a strong contender against Aditi. Yadav, who was in the jail for 22 months, was released on a bail a few months ago.
Another promising contestant, Congress’s Dr Manish Singh Chauhan, whose family has had a long association with the Gandhi family, is hopeful of receiving the support of the people on “emotional” ground as Raebareli has been the Gandhi bastion. Dr Chauhan told News18, “My family and my elders have a long relation with the Congress, same goes for the people of Raebareli for whom the Congress is like a family. I have been involved in social work for many years and that is why I came back to Raebareli after studying abroad. We are getting good support from urban and rural pockets. Aditi had won on a Congress ticket without the Congress she doesn’t stand any chance of winning.”
According to a rough estimate, Thakur voters dominate the urban pockets of Raebareli Sadar while the Yadavs, Muslims, Mauryas and Kurmis comprise the rural voters along with some other castes.
RP Yadav told News18 during the campaign trail, “This time, it’s only the ‘Cycle’ (SP’s election symbol) and people have made up their mind to make Akhilesh Yadav the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. I was wrongly implicated in a case and sent to the jail, but people of Raebareli know it was all a conspiracy against me. This time, I don’t think there is any competition in front of me. Had Aditi been in the Congress, she could have given a good fight, but now with her going to the BJP, she stands no chance of winning from this seat. The candidate by the Congress will be just cutting votes and nothing more than that.”
BSP candidate from Sadar Mohd Ashraf was unreachable for comments.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Unchahar assembly seat of the Raebareli district, the SP has once again shown faith in its sitting MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey while the BJP has fielded Ram Narayan Maurya. The BSP has given the ticket to Anjali Maurya and the Congress has fielded Atul Singh who has earlier been associated with the BJP.
Congress’s Atul Singh during his campaign in Unchahar told News18, “The people of Raebareli district know very well who has done the real development here. It has always been the Congress and now the vision of party leaders is to develop the state through many more schemes. I have been reaching out to the public during Covid-19 when no political leader dared to step out. I believe the people will acknowledge the effort by me and the Congress, and will certainly give us a chance.”