In Amethi, it is ‘badi didi’ versus ‘choti didi’

Amethi, considered synonymous with the Gandhi family, paints a different picture 25 years down the line. In a first, no one from the Gandhi family is fighting for the seat in the 2024 general election.

In Amethi, it is ‘badi didi’ versus ‘choti didi’

Photo: ANI

Amethi, one of the high-profile Lok Sabha seats in the country, is witnessing a close contest between BJP candidate Union minister Smriti Irani and Gandhi family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma.

Amethi, considered synonymous with the Gandhi family, paints a different picture 25 years down the line. In a first, no one from the Gandhi family is fighting for the seat in the 2024 general election.

Although Sharma is the de facto Congress contestant, the real fight is playing out between “badi didi” (Irani) and “choti didi” (Priyanka Gandhi).


The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded debutant Nanhe Singh Chauhan, a resident of Sultanpur, from the seat. Though Chauhan is almost out of contention, he can dent the vote bank of the BJP and the Congress through his Dalit connect.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is spearheading a powerful campaign in support of Sharma in the constituency, much to the delight of the party workers. It is the first election of Sharma.

In most of her election rallies, she refers to Sharma as a “family member”.

Sharma’s ties with the Gandhi family deepened after the passing away of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. He has been working for the Congress party in Amethi since 1983. He had also played a pivotal role in Sonia Gandhi’s maiden electoral victory in 1999 from the seat.

The party announced Sharma’s candidature after Rahul chose to face the ballots from Raebareli, a constituency represented by his mother.

However, in Amethi, there has been a demand for Priyanka to enter active politics before Rahul. Priyanka had come here with her brother in 2002, two years before Rahul entered active politics. This time too, people wanted Priyanka or Rahul to contest from here but they instead fielded their close confidant.

The seat has now become prestigious for the Gandhi family as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

After Rahul’s defeat in Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has tried to strike an emotional chord with the voters by invoking Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Sonia Gandhi. Priyanka also tried to draw the attention of the people to the martyrdom of her grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi recently.

On the other hand, Smriti Irani is banking heavily on the ‘Modi-Yogi’ charisma.

All eyes are set on Amethi where the Congress has pressed all its big leaders, including party president Mallikarjun Kharge, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and others are criss-crossing every lane of the constituency.

Sudama, a local who has seen the Rajiv Gandhi era, says Sharma is the biggest bet of the Congress. “But if Badi Didi (Smriti) loses to Sharma, then a bigger history will be created than what Rahul lost in 2019,” he quipped.

There are several positives for Smriti in these elections. Two Samajwadi Party MLAs, Rakesh Pratap Singh and Maharaji Prajapati, wife of jailed former minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, were openly campaigning for the BJP candidate. But on the other hand, a big political leader of the party, Dr. Sanjay Singh, was out campaigning for the party candidate.

In the 2022 assembly elections, three out of five segments—Tiloi, Salon, and Jagdishpur—were won by the BJP and Gauriganj and Amethi by the SP.

SP’s Gauriganj MLA Rakesh Pratap Singh and Amethi’s Maharaji Prajapati were helping BJP behind the scenes. Rakesh has cross-voted in support of the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections and Maharaji Prajapati has abstained from voting. The families of both these MLAs are openly helping the BJP. Congress does not have a single MLA.

The Gandhi family directly entered electoral politics in Amethi in 1977 in the form of Sanjay Gandhi. After that, one after the other, Rajiv Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from the Gandhi family entered the electoral battlefield and led the Congress to victory, but before this, by-elections were held in 1981 after the death of Sanjay Gandhi in a plane crash.

The day Rajiv Gandhi filed his nomination papers for the first time from the Amethi seat in 1981. Rahul Gandhi has become MP by winning the election from Amethi seat three times: in 2004, 2009 and 2014.

In the general elections of 2019, the BJP’s Smriti Irani defeated Rahul Gandhi by 55,120 votes.

Amethi goes to the polls on May 20 in the fifth phase of the general election.