Rae Bareli’s tryst with another Gandhi, will Rahul do it this time?

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Rae Bareli’s tryst with another Gandhi, will Rahul do it this time?
Rae Bareli:  If there is one Lok Sabha seat in the country that can claim to have the longest association with the Gandhi family, it is the Rae Bareli seat in Uttar Pradesh.

Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat shows that the family still cherishes its ties with this constituency, but it will not be a cakewalk this time.

Situated on the banks of the Sai River, 82 km southeast of Lucknow, Rae Bareli can truly be termed a Congress bastion.

After Independence, barring three occasions, the Congress has been continuously winning the seat.

Feroz Gandhi, husband of Indira Gandhi, first won Rae Bareli in 1952 and then in 1957. After he died in 1960, R.P. Singh and Baijnath Kureel won the seat till Indira Gandhi took it over in 1967.

In 1977, Raj Narain of Janata Party defeated Indira Gandhi but Rae Bareli went back to Indira Gandhi in 1980.

In 1996 and 1998, the seat was won by BJP’s Ashok Singh but during this period, no member of the Gandhi family was in active politics.

From 2004 to 2019 Sonia Gandhi retained this seat.

Earlier this year, she opted for Rajya Sabha, apparently due to health reasons, and wrote an emotional note to the people of her constituency, chronicling her family ties with them and promising to maintain the relationship.

While Rae Bareli has remained loyal to the Gandhi family in the past decades, the party cadres in the constituency have almost wilted away.

Of the five Assembly seats, four — Bachhrawan (SC), Harchandpur, Sareni and Unchahar — are held by the Samajwadi Party while the Sadar seat is held by the BJP.

The prolonged absence of the Gandhis from Rae Bareli and the emergence of ‘middlemen’ who claim to act as a bridge between the people and their leader have driven away most of the local leaders to other parties.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been occasionally visiting her mother’s constituency but has not found time to interact directly with grassroots workers.

As things stand today, Congress has virtually no presence left in the constituency though the older generation of voters are still emotionally inclined towards the Gandhis.

The young generation of voters, however, is deeply influenced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi will face an uphill task in bringing Congress veterans back to the centre stage and getting the act together.

He will need to work hard to preserve the seven-decade-old relationship of his family with the constituency.

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