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As Rahul Prepares to Wear Congress Crown, BJP Takes the Battle to His Den

On Tuesday, BJP chief Amit Shah will be travelling to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, which the Gandhi scion has held since 2004.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:October 8, 2017, 1:37 PM IST
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As Rahul Prepares to Wear Congress Crown, BJP Takes the Battle to His Den
File image of Amit Shah (L) and Rahul Gandhi (R). (Image: PTI)
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Lucknow: A week after the Kerala foray, BJP chief Amit Shah plans to take the political battle to the Nehru-Gandhi pocket-boroughs of Amethi and Raebareli.

On Tuesday, Amit Shah will be travelling to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, which the Gandhi scion has held since 2004. In fact, the Gandhi family has lost the two bastions only once in the post-Emergency elections when both Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were trounced by the Janata opponents in 1977.

Family loyalist Satish Sharma’s defeat to the BJP in 1998 was the only other occasion when the Congress faced defeat in the adjoining constituencies in central UP.

Amit Shah’s visit to the Gandhi backyard is seen as a part of the BJP’s Mission 120 — the vistarak or expansion program, wherein the party has resolved to win the seats in which it stood second in the 2014 General Elections.

For the day-long schedule in Amethi, Amit Shah will be accompanied by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani. She had contested the last Lok Sabha election against the Gandhi scion and was successful in substantially reducing the Congress’s winning margin.

Since the defeat, Smriti Irani has continued to visit Amethi as part of her attempts to nurture the constituency. The larger attempt also seems to be to engage the Congress’s firepower in its own backyard in the run-up to the next General Elections.

“Rahul Gandhi has always used Amethi to pursue political tourism. He has failed to deliver on promises made to the people of Amethi,” says state BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak.

Rahul Gandhi was in Amethi for three days last week. The district administration had first denied him permission to visit, citing ‘security reasons’, but relented later.

Rahul Gandhi’s visit, planned just ahead of the BJP’s grand display of strength in Amethi, was seen as an attempt to dispel allegations that the Congress leader has been neglecting his constituency. The visit also assumed significance in the wake of the upcoming internal polls in the Congress, in which Rahul is widely tipped to take over party reins.

Since Independence, the two constituencies have elected more prime ministers than any other. The expectations of the voters, both from their representatives and the party, are thus very high.

“Rahulji's recent statements made in the US have helped clear the confusion. There is a strong sense among Congressmen in Amethi that their MP is now all set to be the next president of the party and will also be the Prime Minister if the situation arises,” long-time Congress supporter Pramod Mishra.

Former MLA and senior leader Akhilesh Pratap Singh claims the BJP is no longer a challenge. “The past is behind us. The BJP has been exposed, not just in Amethi, but across the country. The party is aware of the BJP's 'Amethi strategy'.”

The Congress strategy of pitting Rahul against Modi — though fraught with risks — is evident in Amethi and outside. During his three-day visit to his constituency last week, Rahul Gandhi attacked only the Prime Minister. He spoke on unemployment, GST and demonetisation. The attempt clearly is to emerge as the sole and the dominant pole against the BJP in 2019 general elections.
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