‘BJP leadership is under pressure from party cadre from Amethi to look for a candidate who can take on Rahul effectively’.
With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections approaching fast, all out efforts have begun to ensure the defeat of Congress president Rahul Gandhi from his home turf Amethi.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main political force there, is preparing the ground to defeat Rahul Gandhi, other forces, which include people with Sangh background, have also started their efforts in this direction. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are unlikely to put up their candidates against the Congress president as part of their electoral understanding.
The BJP leadership, sources said, is under pressure from the party cadre in Amethi to look for a candidate who can take on Rahul Gandhi effectively. “Rahul-mukt Amethi”, BJP sources said, is crucial for the party’s larger aim of “Congress-mukt Bharat”.
The BJP’s confidence in Amethi stems from the spectacular rise in its vote percentage there. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s vote percentage increased from 6% to 34% (a jump of 28%), compared to the 2009 elections in Amethi, while Rahul’s vote percentage went down from 72% to 47%, a downfall of 25%. Similarly, in the Assembly elections last year, the BJP bagged three out of the five constituencies in the Amethi LS constituency. BJP, interestingly, had drawn blank in the 2012 Assembly elections.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, now Union Minister Smriti Irani was fielded against Rahul Gandhi, but she could not defeat him, although his victory margin got reduced substantially. However, a section within the party is pushing for a change of candidate. Sources said this section wants Suresh Passi, an MLA from Jagdishpur who is also a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, to be pitted against Rahul Gandhi. On the other hand, some within the party want Anant Vikram Singh, son of BJP MLA from the Amethi Assembly constituency, Garima Singh, to lead the battle against the Congress president.
However, what has given a new dimension to the “Battle Royale” is the entry of Gopal Prasad, an RTI activist, who has declared that he would contest against Rahul Gandhi. Prasad, who is a member of RSS and also the BJP, has stationed himself at a house on Sagra Road in Amethi, from where he has started his election preparations. Prasad, sources said, has the backing of a senior BJP leader, who is now sidelined, and also of a former BJP leader. Both are rooted to the RSS and were also part of the BJP Parliamentary Board.
When contacted, Gopal Prasad clarified that it is his own decision to contest against Rahul Gandhi. “But I am getting support from many people with Sangh background and also many BJP workers in Amethi, who ‘genuinely’ want to see Rahul Gandhi defeated from Amethi. Many BJP workers are not happy with the way the party is ‘attacking’ Rahul Gandhi here. Having an RSS background and being a member of BJP, I shall seek the BJP ticket to defeat the Congress president,” he said.
“I am the most suitable candidate for the BJP. But in case they (BJP) do not give me ticket, I will contest the election with the support of Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj, led by Om Prakash Rajbhar, a minister in the UP government; Desh Shakti Party of S.N. Chak (ex-DG Police UP) and National Youth Party, all of whom have considerable hold in the area. I am in touch with them. My only aim is to defeat Rahul Gandhi, by hook or by crook,” he added. Prasad organised a three-day programme at Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Amethi, this week, which was attended by many people with Sangh background. The two senior ex-BJP Parliamentary Board members were also supposed to attend the programme, but they decided to stay away from it at the last moment, fearing controversy.
Prasad claims he has got information through RTI which he will use during campaigning against Rahul Gandhi. He also claims that Rahul could be forced to leave Amethi constituency and contest from Rae Bareli instead, currently held by his mother Sonia Gandhi. In that case, as per speculation, his sister Priyanka Vadra may contest from Amethi. “If this happens, I will contest from Rae Bareli,” Prasad said.