With Modi's 'AK 203' package in the Congress borough, can Smriti Irani have a shot at wresting Amethi from Rahul Gandhi?
Senior BJP leaders have consistently been addressing rallies in the Congress constituency with one clear message – Amethi is winnable.
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With a bag full of development projects that will cost the Centre an estimated Rs 538 crore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Amethi — his political rival Rahul Gandhi’s constituency — on Sunday, March 3.
The work done by the NDA Government for Amethi should have been done years ago.Sadly, it was not done. pic.twitter.com/fnVjZs8Ur3— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 3, 2019
The BJP had set its eye on Amethi first in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and it pitted Smriti Irani in a direct contest with the Gandhi scion. Despite the fact that Irani lost to Gandhi back then, the party has not given up on its efforts to wrest the seat from the Congress. With Modi himself campaigning in the constituency for Irani ahead of the big electoral fight, the message from the BJP is clear — Amethi is winnable.
The BJP has not won Amethi since 1998 when Sanjay Singh defeated Satish Sharma of the Congress to wrest the seat from the party. He was, in turn, defeated by Sonia Gandhi in 1999. She later vacated the seat for her son Rahul and contested from Raebareli instead.
When the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) announced their seat-sharing deal in January this year, they decided not to field any candidates from the two seats — this makes the battle in Amethi a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP.
In 2014, Irani had given Rahul Gandhi a tough fight in the constituency. Irani has been regularly visiting Amethi since then. Not only Irani, senior BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, have also been addressing rallies in Amethi, giving a clear indication that the party is not ready to let its guard down in what many see as the Gandhis' pocket borough.
In 2014, Smriti Irani gave Rahul Gandhi, who won by a little over one lakh votes, a strong challenge in Amethi. (Source: PTI)
The result of the BJP's relentless efforts in Amethi bore fruit in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, when the party mananged to win three of the four Assembly seats. Sitting MLA Rakesh Pratap Singh from the SP retained his Gauriganj seat — the Congress instead drew a blank.
To consolidate on the gains made during the Assembly elections now, PM Modi on Sunday said that one of the most advanced rifles in the world — the AK-203 — will be manufactured in Amethi.
Taking a jibe at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, PM Modi said, “Some people just travel around the world and talk about 'Made in Ujjain', 'Made in Jaipur', 'Made in Jaisalmer'... but nothing happens and talks remain just talks, it's under the Modi government now when 'Made in Amethi' AK-203 rifles will be manufactured.”
Rahul Gandhi has said that he had laid the foundation of the ordnance factory at Amethi in 2010. (Source: India Today)
A day later, Rahul Gandhi tried to refute Modi’s claims by saying he had laid the foundation of the ordnance factory of Amethi in 2010. In a quick rebuttal, Smriti Irani reminded Rahul Gandhi that the new thing about the facility was a JV (joint venture) between India and Russia agreed on for the manufacturing of advanced AK-203s, as opposed to the small arms being so far made at the site.
प्रधानमंत्री जी,अमेठी की ऑर्डिनेंस फैक्ट्री का शिलान्यास 2010 में मैंने खुद किया था। पिछले कई सालों से वहां छोटे हथियारों का उत्पादन चल रहा है। कल आप अमेठी गए और अपनी आदत से मजबूर होकर आपने फिर झूठ बोला। क्या आपको बिल्कुल भी शर्म नहीं आती?— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 4, 2019
आपको डर इतना है की अमेठी में विकास हो रहा है की आपने ये देखने की तकलीफ़ नहीं उठायी की कल कोरवा में JV का उद्घाटन हुआ है। इसके तहत भारत और रूस के बीच समझौता हुआ AK 203 राइफ़ल के निर्माण का@RahulGandhi— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) March 4, 2019
Irani recently won praise in the area for organising a trip to the Kumbh for the people of Amethi. She apparently arranged their travel to Prayagraj where the Kumbh is currently underway.
What gives Irani an advantage over Rahul Gandhi now is the fact that while the Gandhi scion has to divide his time addressing rallies across the country being the president of the Congress party, Irani can remain focused on Amethi. Also, with her party being in power at the Centre, Irani can give out more to the constituency than Rahul Gandhi.
The backwardness of Amethi, despite years of Congress rule, is often raked up by Congress detractors to show that the party did little for the people of this Uttar Pradesh seat.
With Amit Shah, Smirit Irani, Yogi Adityanath and Modi himself now gunning for votes in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi indeed has a considerable challenge ahead of him.