The Supreme Court’s stay on Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a criminal defamation case has got both the BJP and the Congress to reassess their strategy afresh in the Amethi-Rae Bareli belt, largely considered a Congress bastion until 2019 when the BJP won Amethi.
This became clear as jubilant Congress cadres in Amethi cut a 51-kilogram laddoo, burst crackers and distributed sweets among the masses to celebrate the top court’s relief which opened the prospect of Gandhi recontesting Lok Sabha polls.
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“I think now, the people of Amethi are assured that Rahulji would contest from here. The top court’s decision has been welcomed with such enthusiasm here that it indicates the people’s mood,” said Congress leader and former lawmaker Deepak Singh.
A delegation of Congress leaders is expected to meet Gandhi after the monsoon session of Parliament.
“That delegation would also comprise people from Amethi who would appeal to him to recontest from here so that local people get to rectify their mistake of 2019,” Singh said.
“Rahulji would visit Amethi ahead of phase II of his Bharat Jodo Yatra. In fact, before the first round of his hugely successful Bharat Jodo, Rahulji had undertaken a 20-kilometre padyatra (foot march) in Amethi too,” he added.
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The BJP isn’t amused by the enthusiasm in the Congress camp.
“As the minister in-charge of Amethi, I visit the district at least once every month. So, I am aware of the popular mood. People know how things have changed in Amethi ever since BJP won. The local MP and Union minister Smriti Irani has done so much for the people over the years that irrespective of who contests against her, it’s going to be a no-contest,” said Girish Yadav, the state’s sports minister and in-charge of Amethi.
“Right now, no decision has been made (about Gandhis contesting from their bastions in UP),” a Congress leader said.
With 2024 Lok Sabha polls less than a year away, Union minister Smriti Irani has stepped up her visits. Between June and August alone, she has spent more than 50 days in her constituency. She was in Amethi again on Sunday for the launch of the campaign to redevelop 508 railway stations across the country. Fifty-five of these, including Amethi and Rae Bareli railway stations, are in Uttar Pradesh.