Smriti Irani unseats Rahul Gandhi from Amethi bastion

After Ravindra Pratap Singh of the Janata Party won the seat in 1977 and BJP’s Sanjay Singh defeated the Congress candidate in 1998, this is the third time that the Nehru-Gandhi family fortress has been breached, thanks to Smriti Irani

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Amethi: BJP candidate Smriti Irani defeated Congress president Rahul Gandhi from his bastion of Amethi by a margin of over 55,000 votes, in a major setback for the grand old party.

According to the Election Commission website, Irani polled 4,68,514 votes while Gandhi secured 4,13,394 votes.

The victory margin for Irani is 55,120 votes.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi had defeated Irani by 1,07,903 votes.

Amethi was reclaimed from Sanjay Singh by Sonia Gandhi in 1999. Thereafter, Rahul Gandhi has won the seat thrice.

After Ravindra Pratap Singh of the Janata Party won the seat in 1977 and BJP’s Sanjay Singh defeated the Congress candidate in 1998, this is the third time that the Nehru-Gandhi family fortress has been breached. While Captain Satish Sharma in the 1990s and Vidya Dhar Bajpai in the 1960s and ’70s were not members of the dynasty, they were fielded from Amethi at the behest of the family, a message that had been communicated to the electorate of the constituency, which helped these candidates win.

BJP celebrates feat of Smriti Irani

As the news of Smriti Irani’s imminent victory trickled in, the BJP camp here burst into a celebration with the supporters chanting slogans and dancing to the beats of thumping drums. The BJP workers came out on the streets and hailed the BJP leader whom they credit with ending the rule of one dynasty in this Congress stronghold.

As the evening descended, the main market in Gauriganj was the epicentre of action where BJP flags were being waved at every corner and enthusiastic supporters moved about distributing ladoos.

Around the Manishi Mahila Mahavidyala and Indira Gandhi PG college, jubilant BJP supporters zoomed about on motorcycles, but on the roadside Congress supporters could be seen huddled together, discussing Congress president Rahul Gandhi who conceded defeat.

A huge crowd gathered at Irani’s local residence where she has been camping since Wednesday evening. Later, she went to the district party office where she met the workers and took their greetings. She was welcomed with beating drums and ‘abeer and laddus’.

“This is a historic victory. Amethi has rejected dynasty politics and expressed faith in the ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ motto of the prime minister,” BJP media head Govind Singh Chauhan said. “It is Irani’s active involvement which helped her. She had kept working for the constituency despite her defeat in 2014,” he said.

Even after her loss in 2014, Irani had kept visiting the constituency over the years and she virtually stationed herself in Amethi during the poll campaign. Gandhi, who was the chief campaigner of his party, was accused by his rivals of neglecting Amethi and of hardly giving time to the constituency in the run-up to the polls. In his absence, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned here and Raebareli, from where their mother Sonia Gandhi contested. She also visited the constituencies several times.

Long before counting started, BJP supporter Shiv Pujan Pandey had said Irani would break into the Congress citadel as she has proved her dedication to the constituency, keeping in touch with the people after 2014 elections.

BJP workers in the constituency had been confident of Irani’s victory, even when the contest between her and Gandhi was neck-to-neck in the beginning. Gathered outside the district magistrate’s office, they claimed that the Congress president was missing. “Smriti didi is all set to wrest the seat,” said Arun Singh, a BJP worker.