Amethi is a Lok Sabha constituency that was created in 1967, covers the entire Amethi district, and apart from a few years between the 1970’s and the 1990’s, it has always been a stronghold of the Indian National Congress. More specifically, it has been the stronghold of the Gandhi family, and has been held by Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Sanjay Gandhi. However, it is Rahul Gandhi who held this seat for the longest period of time, for 15 years between 2004 and 2019. However, in 2019, Amethi severed its 39-year long relationship with the INC, and declared BJP representative Smriti Irani as the winning candidate by a margin of 4,400 votes, resulting in an iconic win for the BJP. If one looks a little deeper into the history of this constituency, and the reasons for the changing political dynamics that led to Rahul Gandhi’s defeat, we would find that this symbolises something much bigger than just a shift in the results of an electoral battle.
The first Member of Parliament to be elected from this constituency was Vidya Dhar Bajpai, a representative of the Indian National Congress, who was re-elected in 1971. During the brief Janata Government interlude, when the Congress was ousted in a number of states as well as at the national level, Ravindra Pratap Singh from the Janata Party became the MP. He was defeated in 1980 by Sanjay Gandhi, who passed away in an accident later that year and in a by-election held in 1981, the seat was won by Rajiv Gandhi. He represented the constituency till 1991, when he was assassinated in the LTTE bombings and Satish Sharma from the INC then won in the subsequent by-election. It was in 1996 that the seat passed to BJP’s Sanjay Singh, which was the second time in the history of this constituency that the seat was obtained by a non-Congress candidate. Finally, in 1998, Sonia Gandhi became the elected MP from Amethi and was succeeded by Rahul Gandhi, who held on to this seat for 15 years till 2019, till it was won by Smriti Irani from the BJP.
Losing Amethi is undoubtedly a huge loss of face for Rahul Gandhi, who is not only the president of the Congress party, but was also their alleged Prime Ministerial candidate this year. Smriti Irani campaigned rigorously in Amethi, and the results speak for themselves. In 2014, she had lost to Rahul Gandhi with a margin of around 1 lakh votes, and to turn the tables in her favour, she visited the constituency regularly over the last 5 years, and even stationed herself in Amethi during the campaign. On the other hand, reportedly, Rahul Gandhi hardly went to his constituency in the run-up to the polls, and only visited it once during a roadshow.
According to locals, this election result reflects the change in the mindset of young voters, who voted for Smriti Irani because she connected with the people in a way that Rahul Gandhi did not. She reached out to them and helped them get scholarships and jobs, which instead of being seen as tools of political canvassing, were received as tokens of genuine concern. The local BJP leaders also aided her image, and were like a connecting bridge between her and the people. Unfortunately, in the course of these events, one of Smriti Irani’s closest associates, Surendra Singh, was shot dead by unidentified assailants, which prompted her to come down to Amethi, where she met with his family and even attended the cremation, and promised that the accused would be penalised. It can thus be said that she did not leave a single stone unturned to appeal to the electorate, even after the elections were over. Although earlier, the identity of being connected with the Gandhi family was more important than development for the people of Amethi, this time, the electorate voted for its own interest. In the event of a non-Congress candidate representing this constituency for the third time in 52 years, we can hope for a positive change for the people, and time will tell the rest.
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