‘So, what is your status? Are you still a Congress MLA, or are you going to BJP or the Samajwadi Party ahead of the 2022 elections?’
The ‘Rebel of Rae Bareli’, 33-year-old MLA Aditi Singh, smiles at the question. “I think you have left out a couple of parties. Perhaps, BSP and AAP should also be options! I am certainly a Congress MLA right now.” Singh, the daughter of late 5-time MLA Akhilesh Kumar Singh from Rae Bareli, is the first-time MLA from the same seat for the Congress. But her own party suspects her of hobnobbing with the BJP and even tried to disqualify her as MLA.
“I think the Congress is just too quick to take action without giving its leaders a chance to explain or giving them that much leeway or freedom to be their own people or be their own leaders and have their own likes and dislikes,” Singh told News18 at her house in Lalupur village, a political landmark here as her father Akhilesh Singh had held this seat from 1993 till 2017. He passed away in 2019. She is now among the seven Congress MLAs in UP.
Once seen as the protegee of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her eyes-and-ears in the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency represented by Sonia Gandhi, Singh told News18 she has had no conversation with Priyanka in recent times. “She should frequent UP more,” Singh says. Congress leaders in Lucknow say Singh won’t get a Congress ticket in 2022. “It is my prerogative to ask for a ticket. I am not the decision-making party on if I get one,” Singh retorts.
Disillusioned Young Turks Of Congress?
Singh joins a list of young leaders who look disillusioned with the Congress. “A lot of times, the leadership takes decisions based on what their advisors or coterie tells them – that may not always be in their best interests. Look at Jyotiraditya Scindia – he tried his best to stick around but post elections, Congress had the same person as chief minister and state president. It was not done. He waited two years after having helped form the MP government,” Singh says.
She points to the case of Jitin Prasada. “The condition of Congress in UP is in front of you. I do not think Prasada was treated in the best possible way. There were certainly moments of disrespect. A leader of his stature could have been treated better,” Singh says. Congress tried unsuccessfully to disqualify her after she disobeyed her party to attend a special assembly session and also praised the Yogi government besides backing scrapping of Article 370 in J&K.
“I have praised the Uttar Pradesh government where I felt that they were doing a good job. When I criticise the government, it probably does not gain as much traction because that is what essentially my job is being in the opposition. But when I praise the government, it catches far more eyeballs. I have criticised the government on many an occasion too,” Singh argues.
Rae Bareli Seat Dynamics
The Rae Bareli assembly seat is where the family of Aditi Singh has had its hold for nearly three decades. Her father Akhilesh Singh was the Congress MLA here from 1993 till 2007 for the Congress, before winning as an Independent in 2007 after the Congress expelled him, and from the Peace Party in 2012. Aditi took over in 2017 by winning this seat on a Congress ticket.
The seat has a good proportion of Yadavs and Muslim voters and the political wisdom here is that it is the family of Singh who wins the election and not the party. “Congress will 100% lose this seat if it does not field Didi (Aditi Singh),” a group of locals in Lalupur claimed. Akhilesh Singh is also said to have played a key part in Sonia Gandhi’s winning reign from the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat.
“Things will unfold. My father faced his own share of problems, much bigger than mine. In the end, he prevailed. God does carve out a path. You cannot keep a good man down,” Aditi Singh says. She studied in the US and got married to Congress MLA from Punjab, Angad Singh Saini in 2019. Both of them are the youngest MLAs in the assemblies of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab respectively.