Congress workers want Rahul Gandhi to contest 2024 LS polls from Amethi: UP party chief Rai
In the 2019 general elections, despite winning in Wayanad, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi faced defeat in Amethi against BJP leader Smriti Irani.
Amethi's populace aims to correct their 2019 'error', with both Congress members and leaders urging Rahul Gandhi to stand for the constituency in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, said the party's Uttar Pradesh chief, Ajay Rai.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had contested the 2019 general elections from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad in Kerala. He lost Amethi to BJP leader Smriti Irani.
The seat was won by him in 2004, 2009 and 2014, and was considered a Congress bastion. Sonia Gandhi had won from Amethi in 1999. Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had also represented the constituency in Lok Sabha. On the recently formed opposition grouping Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), in which the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress are partners, he asserted that the alliance formed for the parliamentary elections will be successful in Uttar Pradesh in defeating the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Rai added that the Congress-SP tie-up for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls should not be equated with the alliance of opposition parties for the 2024 elections.
In 2017, the Congress had won seven seats and the SP 47 in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly. In 2022, the Congress had won just two seats. The party has one member in Lok Sabha (Rae Bareli MP Sonia Gandhi) from the politically crucial state that sends 80 MPs to the 543-member Lower House of Parliament.
"The party (Congress) workers and leaders are demanding that Rahul Gandhi contest from the Amethi parliamentary constituency, and the public want to rectify the mistake committed by them, and work with full strength to make him the Lok Sabha MP from Amethi," Rai told PTI.
The people of Amethi "feel that they were cheated and misguided", the Uttar Pradesh Congress president said hitting out at the BJP which is in power both in the state and at the Centre. Asked if the Congress will again field Sonia Gandhi from the Rae Bareli seat in 2024 or consider her daughter and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as its candidate, Rai said, "They (apparently referring to the party leadership) have to decide this." Every party worker will deliver their best to ensure that the Congress wins Rae Bareli, he said.
On the chances of success of opposition bloc INDIA, Rai, who was recently appointed as Congress' Uttar Pradesh unit chief, said it "will definitely uproot and overthrow them (the BJP-led NDA)".
Before his elevation to the post, Rai was the Congress' regional chief of the east Uttar Pradesh unit, which among other districts also sees the party's works in Amethi.
On some Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders claiming that the INDIA bloc will not be successful in the state, the five-time MLA from Varanasi asked, "Why was (Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party chief) Om Prakash Rajbhar included (in the NDA)? Just find out what all Om Prakash Rajbhar said about the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (Yogi Adityanath). They (BJP) should introspect." The SBSP was a BJP ally in 2017 but parted ways ahead of the 2022 assembly polls and had joined hands with the SP. The Rajbhar-led party joined the NDA last month. On the Congress' dismal performance in the 2017 elections and its alliance with SP, Rai said that "it is unfair to compare the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with the 2024 Lok Sabha elections". He said that "2017 was an election for the state, while the 2024 election will be for the nation".
Hitting out at the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, he alleged, "See the biggest problem is that the BJP government is bringing corrupt contractors from Gujarat and giving them work." He did not elaborate further.
The people of Uttar Pradesh are either being given jobs as "petty contractors" or they are being given "any ordinary job", he said and added that "everywhere things are being hidden". "We have to expose these things before the public," the Congress leader said.
He alleged "there is unemployment, price rise, corruption and misuse of government machinery" and added that "these things have to be told to the people".
Asked how he plans to improve the Congress' tally in the next Uttar Pradesh assembly polls and in the Lok Sabha, Rai said, "at some point of time, the BJP had only two MPs in Lok Sabha. They were in a very weak condition. We (the Congress) at least have a strong legacy. The Congress will contest with full strength in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections." The Uttar Pradesh Congress chief said he is ready to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha polls from the Varanasi parliamentary constituency, if the party asks him to do so.
Rai has lost three Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi -- as a Congress candidate in 2014 and 2019 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and as a SP candidate to BJP stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi in 2009.
The 55-year-old Congress leader had won the Kolasla assembly constituency (in Varanasi) on a BJP ticket in 1996, 2002 and 2007. After parting ways with the BJP, Rai won the 2009 assembly bypoll from the seat as an Independent.
In 2012, he won from the Pindra assembly constituency on a Congress ticket. Post-delimitation Kolasla was renamed as Pindra.
Attacking the BJP over prices of essentials, Rai said that "today there is a steep rise in the prices of cooking gas, 'jeera' (cummin), tomato and ginger". "There is unemployment and corruption. This did not happen when the Congress was in power," he said.
Giving a message to Congress workers, Rai said, "My message is that the workers should stand with the party with full might. The new and old workers will be given due respect, and nobody will be sidelined."
(With agency inputs)