Amethi

Amethi: People of this neglected town are now coming out to tell their story, explaining why they had to bid adieu to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and choose Union minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani in his place. The people of Amethi say that Gandhi simply did not care for them as much as his father Rajiv did.

Smriti Irani defeated the Congress president by a margin of 55,120 votes in Amethi, considered a Congress stronghold, getting 4,67,598 votes against Gandhi’s 4,12,867 votes.

Rahul Gandhi has been an MP for three consecutive terms from Amethi. He was first elected from here in 2004. The people of Amethi say that many projects and programmes started in Rajiv Gandhi’s time were closed once Rahul took over as the MP of the constituency. This affected the livelihood of thousands of people. A large number left Amethi for good in search of employment.

People say that, during Rahul’s last term, the Nehru-Gandhi family’s tradition of reaching out to the elderly and care for the old was broken. They complain that the present generation of the dynasty did not love and respect them as much as their parents and grandparents did.

Retired teacher Sunil Singh said, “The Rajiv Gandhi Jeevan Rekha Express used to reach Amethi once a month. The train carried a group of specialist doctors who provided a variety of services including surgery. Thousands of people benefited from this service. But this service stopped once Rahul became the MP and no attempt was made to restore this important medical service.”

Agreeing with Singh, grocer Shashank Sahu said, “Rajiv Gandhi helped in establishing a company called Samrat Bicycles. After Rajiv, the factory suffered losses and it was closed. The company’s land was leased out at an auction to pay off a loan. This plot was bought by the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust.”

Sahu continued, “Rahul Gandhi is a trustee in the trust but it was Smriti Irani who fought for five years to demand the return of the land to the farmers. Besides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have promised to return the land of farmers to the local people.”

Anganwadi worker Usha Tiwari said, “Under the Rajiv Gandhi National Health Service, nine trains used to visit every village in the area and treat the poor while distributing medicines for free, but this service was stopped too after Rahul became the MP from Amethi. Despite the huge demand of the people, efforts were not made to start the service again.”

An aged Shamsuddin said, “Rajiv Gandhi would go to every village, visit every house, know every villager by name, and this established a true relationship between the then prime minister and Amethi’s citizens. Rahul made a lot of visits to Amethi, but he could not even begin a direct dialogue with the people.

Shamsuddin said, “The old supporters of Rajiv Gandhi and Congress loyalists drifted away from the party gradually. These people used to take full command of the election campaign of the party. If these people had stayed with the party, united, perhaps the result would have gone in Rahul’s favour.”

The Amethi parliamentary seat was believed to be a fortress of the Congress that was, out of 16 Lok Sabha and two by-elections, won by the party 16 times before Irani upset Gandhi. Even when the SP and BSP ruled Uttar Pradesh alternately, neither could ever win Amethi in a Lok Sabha election before 2019.

Dhananjay Kumar Maurya, a wholesale vegetable seller in the Gauriganj market in this parliamentary area, said, “The Malvika Steel Factory built at the time of MP Captain Satish Sharma was closed at the time of Rahul. The farmers never got back the land that was taken for that factory. Also, 10,000 people became unemployed. These people had been promised that at least one person from every family would be employed in the factory once it began functioning.”

The Amethi Lok Sabha seat comprises five Assembly seats, including Tiloi, Jagdishpur, Amethi and Gauriganj of the Amethi district while the Salon Assembly seat in the Rae Bareli district falls in Amethi LS area too.

In the Assembly election held in 2017, the Samajwadi Party won one seat from here while the BJP got four out of the five seats.

When Sonia Gandhi stepped into electoral politics, she made Amethi her launchpad in 1999. She won the seat for the first time but then left it for son Rahul Gandhi in 2004. Since then, it has been a story of abject neglect of the constituency by Rahul Gandhi.