| Akhilesh Yadav
Rae Bareli, April 27: In the heat and dust of Rae Bareli, one son will take on another.
They are not rivals for the high-profile prize, just foot soldiers for a cause.
Come Saturday, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh will hit the road for what even his party concedes is a lost duel with Rahul Gandhi.
He will campaign for Raj Kumar Chaudhary, the man the ruling Samajwadi Party has pitted against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
“Akhilesh will challenge the whirlwind campaign of Rahul Gandhi in support of his mother. Akhilesh doesn’t enjoy any less charisma. He would launch a cycle yatra on Saturday,” said Samajwadi state secretary Ramsaran Das. The cycle is the Samajwadi Party’s symbol.
The battle for Rae Bareli, where Sonia has returned for re-election after she resigned as an MP in the wake of the office-of-profit controversy, goes beyond victory or defeat. Samajwadi leaders know that their candidate has little chance of winning the May 8 bypoll, but they don’t want to give the Congress a walkover.
So, while Rahul takes his youthful appeal to the voters, who two years ago sent his mother to Parliament, Akhilesh will spur the youth on the other side of the divide.
“So what if Rahul stirs the youth force, we have Akhilesh,” his father had once told party leaders.
On Saturday, cycles will hit the road in thousands to drum up support for Chaudhary, the son-in-law of senior party leader Beni Verma.
“Akhilesh is expected to hold 11 meetings while riding a bicycle,” said a Samajwadi leader in Rae Bareli.
The 35-year-old Kannauj MP will begin his yatra from the Rae Bareli main township and cover over 10 places. “He is expected to cover a distance of about 30 km during the day,” the leader added.
Akhilesh has done this before. When Mulayam was in the Opposition, he had gone on a similar yatra through the streets of the capital Lucknow to protest against the policies of then chief minister Mayavati.
Yesterday, words of protest also rasped out from Rahul, but against the Mulayam government.
The Amethi MP, who is also in his early thirties, alleged that the state government’s contribution in Rae Bareli’s development was nil. But he said despite the indifference, the Congress had started several development works with help from the Centre, where the party heads the UPA coalition.
“The Gandhi family shares an inextricable bond with Rae Bareli. When my grandmother, the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, represented this constituency, good development was witnessed here,” Rahul, who started his campaign for his mother on Tuesday, added.