No cakewalk for Rahul in Rae Bareli with the contest evenly poised

After the intervention of Home Minister Amit Shah, both sides stand an equal chance of success.

No cakewalk for Rahul in Rae Bareli with the contest evenly poised

Photo: ANI

Rae Bareli, a Nehru-Gandhi bastion, has turned into one of the hottest Lok Sabha seats in the country where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is trying his luck for the first time after his mother Sonia Gandhi left the seat.

With barely three days left for campaigning, both Congress and BJP are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to win this prestigious seat, which has been mostly won by the Nehru-Gandhi family since independence.

Polling in the constituency is scheduled to be held on May 20 in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections.


Rahul Gandhi, who is also contesting from Wayanad in Kerala where polling was held on April 26, opted to nominate from Rae Bareli as well after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Union Minister Smriti Irani from Amethi in 2019.

Rahul is the third generation of the Gandhi family to contest elections from Rae Bareli. Sonia Gandhi entered the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan two months ago leaving the seat open for her children.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been camping in the constituency since May 6 to campaign for Rahul Gandhi. She is holding street meetings to seek support for her brother.

On the other, the BJP has fielded UP Horticulture Minister Dinesh Pratap Singh from the Rae Bareli seat. The saffron party is trying its level best ensure victory for its candidate by upsetting the Congress applecart.

Rahul and Priyanka were already striking an emotional chord with people of the constituency by continuously raking up their time-tested relationship with the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, along with a host of leaders of the BJP and the NDA are regularly visiting the constituency to campaign for Dinesh Pratap Singh.

The importance of the seat can be gauged from the fact that the Union home minister, who arrived in Rae Bareli two days ago, said at a public meeting, “If the meaning of crossing 400 is achieved by winning one seat, it should be Rae Bareli. Hence, five lotus flowers to Rae Bareli, you will cross the 400 mark automatically.”

For Mission 400, Amit Shah did not limit himself to speeches only. To make things difficult for Rahul Gandhi and get the support of 11 per cent of Brahmin voters in the area, he visited SP MLA Manoj Pandey at his house. Manoj is considered a prominent figure in the Brahmin community not only in Rae Bareli but also across the surrounding districts.

Shah also tried to break the ice with disgruntled BJP MLAs including Aditi Singh, who were reportedly not lending adequate support to the BJP candidate. Political experts were feeling it very difficult for the BJP to win the Nehru-Gandhi bastion. But after the intervention of Amit Shah, the contest is evenly poised with both sides having an equal chance of success.

Many people here say they would choose the Gandhi family that way they would be in effect choosing a prime minister or a contender for the post of prime minister. The ground situation is such that neither the election is one-sided in favour of Rahul Gandhi, nor is the path easy for Dinesh.

Going by the chronology, out of a total of 20 elections held in the Rae Bareli constituency since 1952, Congress won 17 times. Feroze Gandhi won the seat two times, late prime minister Indira Gandhi was elected from here three times while Sonia Gandhi was elected MP from the constituency for as many as five consecutive terms.

The history of the Rae Bareli seat is interesting. Here, great political warriors were defeated.

Indira Gandhi lost the 1977 elections from the constituency. Apart from this, Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s wife Savita Ambedkar, Vijaya Raje Scindia, Janeshwar Mishra, and Vinay Katiyar lost their elections here.

The biggest factor in favour of Rahul Gandhi is that there is still a section of the region that dreams of seeing Rahul becoming the prime minister as a successor of the Gandhi family. Nevertheless, many people can be heard asking what the guarantee is that he won’t leave Rae Bareli after winning the elections as he is contesting from Wayanad too.

BJP candidate Dinesh Pratap Singh, though lost the last election to Sonia Gandhi, was successful in reducing her victory margin. The factor that goes in his favour this time is that he is accessible to the locals even though he is a minister.

For the last five years, he has been active with the hope of contesting the next election. Being a ruling party member, the network of all the heads and BDC members is coming in handy to him. However, there is resentment against him at many places owing to the behaviour of his family members.

The BSP has fielded Thakur Prasad Yadav, who in the past was unsuccessful twice from the Sareni segment in the assembly polls. Since no SP candidate is in the fray on this seat, which has about 23 per cent of OBC voters, the BSP has opted for a Yadav candidate. The SP and Congress are contesting the elections in alliance.

There are five assembly constituencies in the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency of which the SP had won four in 2022. The assembly segments are Bachhrawa, Sareni, Rae Bareli Sadar, Unchahar and Harchandpur. In the 2022 assembly polls, except for Rae Bareli Sadar, all seats were won by the SP. The Sadar seat was won by BJP’s Aditi Singh.

There are around 23% OBC voters, of them around 9 per cent are Yadavs. This mathematics can prove helpful in easing the path of Congress. SP organization is also working shoulder-to-shoulder with Congress in the elections.

In the 2019 polls, BJP’s Dinesh Pratap Singh received over 3.67 lakh votes but lost to Sonia Gandhi by a margin of over 1.55 lakh votes when the SP-BSP alliance left the seat for Congress.

In 2014, Sonia Gandhi won by a margin of over 3.50 lakh votes against BJP’s Ajay Agarwal