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2019: Why Rahul Gandhi was voted out
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had lost to BJP’s Smriti Irani by a margin of 55,000 votes, a major upset after having won the “family” seat thrice. But, while the result may have been termed an upset, many locals said they weren't really surprised.
Hours since the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared, and Amethi -- a Gandhi pocket borough for decades -- is awash with saffron.
This week has brought news once considered unthinkable -- Congress president Rahul Gandhi had lost to BJP’s Smriti Irani by a margin of 55,000 votes, a major upset after having won the “family” seat thrice. But, while the result may have been termed an upset, many locals told TOI they weren't really surprised.
“I am the only person in my family who voted for Congress this time. Rahul has failed to ensure any development in the area. He merely banked on the goodwill his father Rajiv Gandhi had earned here when he was the MP. Had he done any work here, he would have definitely won,” said Sushila Shukla, a shop-owner in Amethi.
“Rahul needed to be taught a lesson. A win by a very narrow margin of 2,000-3000 votes would have served as a warning to him. We never thought he would lose even though we were aware that the sentiment against him was very strong this time,” said a shop-owner close to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital in Munshiganj, who did not want to be named.
He said he voted for Rahul as a matter of habit but saw how little effort he had put in to retain the seat.
There's a clear generation gap in Amethi when it comes to party loyalty. While Congress remains popular among the older generation, many of whom claim to have known Rajiv and Indira Gandhi, most of the youngsters expressed happiness at the BJP's triumph.
However, even among the old timers, there are many who said Rahul will have to work harder to wrest back the constituency. “If Smriti Irani works hard in the coming five years, there is no reason she should be replaced,” said Ramlal Yadav of Sarai Bhaguani. A common narrative across the constituency is about Smriti Irani’s dedication to Amethi even after she lost the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
They recall how Irani visited Amethi continuously, meeting people, participating in events. Even as several voters went along with the Modi wave, Irani’s efforts at cultivating the constituency added to BJP’s charm.
“We voted for Modi, for national interest and desh bhakti. And, moreover, Rahul did nothing here. It was Rajiv who brought development to Amethi and Rahul was simply getting votes in his name. Irani lost in 2014 but she still made it a point to visit the constituency. Rahul, as an MP, never came,” said Vinod Kumar Shukla, an advocate in Gauriganj.
Apoorva Srivastava, a 29-year-old who has recently started his dairy business, said he voted for Congress in 2014 but this time, the vote was for development. “Irani spent time here. She got work done, like starting factories. There was a fire recently when she was campaigning and she helped douse it. She has made an effort to be a part of Amethi,” said Srivastava.
At the RTO office nearby, Hansraj Yadav, a tea stall owner, said that voting against Congress till now was not an option as he thought it would be an insult to the Gandhi family. However, he added, Rahul frittered away the chances that he got.
Ram Awadh Maurya, a cycle repair shop owner, said that had the Gandhi family only raised the salaries of the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital employees, he would not have needed to promise Rs 72,000 to anyone. “People who work outside the hospital owe their livelihoods to the hospital but Rahul never had the time to even stop and speak to us for a minute. On the other hand, Irani has been doing a lot of work here. She has distributed seeds to farmers, attended weddings, festivals. Rahul does not visit us often or meet people,” he said.
The outcome -- a day after the results, Amethi looked like Congress was never in-charge here. BJP flags could be seen across the constituency and men wearing saffron “gamchhas”, which they claim were handed out by the party before the elections, are difficult to miss.