Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to take the battle to the Congress party and Gandhi Parivar at its home turf of Raebareli. Prime Minister Modi seems to have chosen to hit Congress where it would hurt the most-the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar bastion of Raebareli, which has been under the Congress first family control for most of the last sixty years.
According to the reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Raebareli on December 16 to inaugurate various development projects at the parliamentary constituency represented by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi since 2004.
Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Nand Gopal Nandi said that PM Modi will inspect the rail coach factory in Raebareli and flag off 900 coaches. He will also inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of other development projects and will also address a huge public gathering.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister choice to step into Nehru-Gandhi turf months ahead of the upcoming general elections may be an indication that the BJP will hold no bars to fight the Congress first family at its own strongholds. PM Modi may indeed start the 2019 election campaign from Sonia Gandhi’s constituency. Recently, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also decided to use his MPLAD funds for the development of Raebareli district.
Raebareli is one of the most high-profile constituencies in the country, as it has been under the Congress rule, especially the Nehru-Gandhi family for the last 60 years. In fact, the Congress party has been in power in Raebareli for almost 55 years out of 61 years of parliamentary politics. The Nehru-Gandhi family has been in power for more than 43 years in the prestigious constituency, with the likes of Feroze Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Arun Kumar Nehru, Sheila Kaul (Nehru’s sister-in-law) and Sonia Gandhi winning from Raebareli in the past. Captain Satish Sharma, a close aide of Sonia Gandhi was allowed to contest and win on behalf of the family in 1999 elections.
The BJP also had its success in the Nehru-Gandhi bastion, when Ashok Singh had contested on the party ticket and won in 11th and 12th Lok Sabha elections in 1996 and 1998 respectively. Freedom Fighter and Janata Dal leader Raj Narain had contested in Raebareli constituency and had defeated the mighty Indira Gandhi in historic 1977 elections.
Raebareli is a Congress fortress and symbolises Nehru-Gandhi Parivar’s control over the party. Once impossible to breach, it has now opened up for other political parties, especially for the BJP. The 2017 Uttar Pradesh election results can clearly prove that the Congress party has losing its grip over both Raebareli and Amethi-the other Congress bastion represented by Rahul Gandhi currently. In Uttar Pradesh state elections, out of five assembly segments of Raebareli Lok Sabha constituency, BJP had won two segments of Bacchrawan and Sareni- constituencies, both being Congress bastions.
Similarly, BJP has also entered Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi by winning four out of five assembly segments in the state elections causing a worry to Congress leadership. In 2014, Union Minister Smriti Irani had contested against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi giving a scare to the Congress president. Smriti Irani had lost the elections with a margin of over 1 lakh votes, as Rahul Gandhi was aided by Samajwadi Party which decided not to field any candidate against Rahul Gandhi.
The decision of Prime Minister Modi led BJP to address a public gathering in Raebareli looks like the beginning of the election campaigning ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year. PM Modi being conscious of the highly symbolic value of Raebareli and Amethi constituency seems to have decided to take the battle to Congress leadership in its own backyard. It is interesting to see how well this strategy works out for the party and its implications on national politics.