Desperately seeking to revive its political fortunes in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections next year, the Congress has been able to win over its bitterest rival in Rae Bareli, the Gandhi family home turf, where the party lost all five Assembly constituencies in 2012. Aditi Singh, daughter of muscleman-turned-politician and MLA from Rae Bareli, Akhilesh Singh, joined the Congress last week. Akhilesh Singh, who was sacked from Congress in 2003 owing to his “criminal record”, has been a fierce critic of the Gandhis and despite high-voltage campaigning by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, Akhilesh was able to wrest the city (sadar) seat comfortably.

According to Congressmen in Rae Bareli, the return of the Singh family to the Congress fold is the result of the personal efforts of Priyanka Vadra, who is keen to make sure that Congress wins all the five Assembly seats in Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of her mother. “People close to Priyanka were in constant touch with Akhilesh Singh, who has some serious health problems and was planning to launch her foreign returned management student daughter in the 2017 elections. The Congress contacted him through Sanjay Singh, senior Congress leader from the nearby Amethi district. Sanjay and Akhilesh are close friends. Later, when Aditi met Priyanka during the latter’s visit to Rae Bareli, the two ladies emerged as colleagues,” said a senior Congress office-bearer from Rae Bareli.

When contacted, Sanjay Singh said that Aditi was chosen because of her dynamic and modern personality. “She is well-behaved and rooted in Rae Bareli’s ethos like her father. She will turn Congress fortunes in the elections,” he said.

Akhilesh Singh, who has been a bitter critic of the Congress and had even spoken to this correspondent on earlier occasions terming the Gandhis as “monarchs”, said that he was happy for his daughter and will be happier if she helps develop Rae Bareli as a Congress politician. Akhilesh Singh himself was a Congress MLA for three consecutive terms 1993 onwards.

Aditi said that she owes all her political education to her father and that she would carry forward his legacy of social welfare. “My father has worked for the weakest in society here and that’s why he has been so popular. I hope to carry this legacy forward,” she said.

Akhilesh Singh, who has several criminal cases against him including that of murder, has a “Robin Hood image” in Rae Bareli and his family’s induction into the Congress fold is expected to help the Congress win even in adjoining Amethi district. “Now, apart from being in a fighting position in all five Rae Bareli constituencies, the Congress has improved chances in Salon and Tilohi, two Assembly segments in Amethi district,” said Kubool Ahmed, a journalist from the area.

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