Raibareily, Amethi Debate raises the Heat in Election Season

National, 10 May: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be starting the election campaign in Amethi and Raibaleily when she is not contesting the election. She has emerged as the rhetorical key challenger taking on PM Modi in heating speeches every day. Rahul Gandhi will be contesting from raibareily. Smriti Irani taunts the Congress for running away and K.  L Sharma an old family associate of Gandhi will be contesting from Amethi against Smriti Irani.

Amidst strong criticism from the BJP, the congress leaders claim it is a strategic move by the party and the Gandhi family because it avoids the media circus that was expected in Amethi. It is a clever move to take away the headline that would have been the obsession around the Amethi constituency, the Smriti Irani vs Rahul Gandhi fight.

Smriti Irani, the BJP candidate from Amethi criticises Rahul Gandhi over his dropping Amethi and contesting from Raibareily. As Ms. Irani states Rahul Gandhi has run away from Amethi, their five long decade Bastian in fear of the BJP. The long-time family associate K .S Sharma is contesting from Amethi from the BJP. So the question arises regarding none of the Gandhi family members are in the fray in Amerhi.

The decision of the Congress party is not surprising because in politics one should not crow about any capability of prediction. The decision the congress has taken would be a positive image fallout for the party, less for the family. It might not impact hugely on voting and national results. Here the implication would be the personal preference taking a back seat and political image consciousness taking a front seat. If Congress had played this game earlier it would have got far greater benefits. Congress supporters say the narrative of ‘cowardness’ of Smriti Irani doesn’t resonate too much in the country. It might make a difference in media but the public does not swallow that Rahul Gandhi is a coward. It is a headline management and moment marketing strategy from the congress.

If Rahul Gandhi eins both in Waynad and Raibareily, he has to vacate one of the constituencies. He would opt out of the way as for Priyanka Gandhi. Winning and leaving raibareily is not a good idea as it is the bastian of Sonia Gandhi. Facing a bypoll is a tricky move because especially in north India bypolls generally give favourable results to those who are in power.

The damage to Amethi is the way it was left out after the last loss, the Gandhis did not go back to Amethi, which is a bigger institutional problem with the Congress. The person who has been posed in Raibariely against Rahul Gandhi is not a lightweight. Dinesh Singh is a local politician, who was a congress-strong man Raibareily for 30 years, he joined the BJP one year before the 2019 elections and he managed to slip down Sonia Gandhi’s grip by 50% in the 2019 elections. So one should not keep Dinesh Singh in the same category as KL Sharma.

Smriti Irani says the congress has accepted defeat even before the fight. Amethi’s ticket was given to a common congress Karyakarta ( worker) as a welcome step but without any of the Gandhi Vadra members is suspicious. The decision of Congress did not go as per the media’s expectations. Moreover, an election in a democracy is about people’s issues not about personal grudges and settling scores. There has been a huge demand for Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra to contest elections either from Amethi or Raibaleily. Priyanka had always articulated that she would be involved in campaigning for the party and Rahul Gandhi has chosen raibareily as there is an emotional attachment of Sonia Gandhi to the constituency.

When comes to analysing it, elections are not about headline management. Rahul Gandhi, by leaving Amethi has created a sense of abandonment. That abandonment allows the people of the BJP to tell stories about the party and the family. This is a family-centric decision and it indicates from the previous comments of Robert Vadra that ‘Amehi needs me’, shows there has been a reluctance from Rahul Gandhi to contest from Amethi. So there was friction in the family itself about who would take over raibareily either Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Vadra. It also shows the patriarchal mindset of the Gandhi family. There is an intransigence to push and settle the career of Rahul Gandhi.

However, this decision is going to affect grossly the partners of I.N.D.An alliance. It would be very interesting to observe the impact of it in the coming phases of the polling. The war of narrative is going to be trickier for the alliance in future.