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Uncle’s day, Miraya’s moment

- Amethi sees ‘quiet dignity’ in 11-year-old
Women wait with rose petals to welcome Rahul Gandhi’s convoy as he arrived to file his nomination in Amethi on Saturday

Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination from Amethi on Saturday for the third time, his family by his side, after a rose-petal welcome through the streets of his heartland constituency.

But it was a little girl who grabbed the eyeballs.

Miraya, daughter of Priyanka and Robert Vadra, accompanied her maternal uncle when the Congress vice-president reached district magistrate Jagat Raj’s office to file his papers. This was the first time the 11-year-old had done so.

The verdict from Amethi residents was unanimous: she may be young but has a “quiet dignity like her mother”.

Miraya stood by with her parents and grandmother Sonia Gandhi as Rahul addressed the media after filing his papers. When Priyanka whispered something into her ears, her face lit up in a smile.

“She used to be here with Priyanka Gandhi when she campaigned for her brother in 2009. We recently saw Miraya on TV when she joined the Gandhi family in paying tribute to Rajiv Gandhi. This is the first time she has come to see Rahul Gandhi file his nomination. She has a quiet dignity like her mother,” said Mohammad Azhar, 68, a die-hard fan of the Gandhi family.

She also has a flower — a hybrid orchid from Sikkim — named after her. The lilac flower got its name in 2006, when Miraya was only four.

Flower petals — rose, not orchid — were showered on Rahul when he reached the Uttar Pradesh constituency with his family this morning.

Atop an SUV, the Gandhi siblings waved as their vehicle crawled through the congested Amethi-Gauriganj road. Crowds lined the road all through the 11km stretch from Amethi town to the district collectorate at Gauriganj as a separate vehicle, fitted with a sprayer, showered rose petals on the guests.

By the time he stepped off the SUV, a few tonnes of rose petals must have been sprayed — much like the welcome Sonia had got earlier this month when she came to file her nomination from Rae Bareli.

“The filing of nomination papers went smoothly and it just took 20 minutes to complete the process,” district magistrate Raj told reporters later.

Rahul exuded confidence when he spoke to the media. “I have been working in Amethi for 10 years. I don’t think there will be a drop in my vote share this time. We have family ties with Amethi, it will be a good victory,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi leads the way, followed by granddaughter Miraya, as the family reaches the district collector’s office. Turned out in kurta-pyjama, not pink trousers, Robert Vadra manages not to stand out. Pictures by Naeem Ansari

The Congress leader faces the BJP’s Smriti Irani and the Aam Aadmi Party’s Kumar Vishwas.

Rahul also clarified that he was not making a personal attack on Narendra Modi yesterday when he had referred to the BJP prime ministerial candidate’s marriage at a rally.

“It was not a personal attack. Something was there in the affidavit which was seen for the first time. I just mentioned that,” he said.

Many believe that the anti-Congress votes in the constituency would split between his two main rivals, helping Rahul, as the BSP’s Dharmendra Pratap Singh is considered a lightweight candidate. The ruling Samajwadi Party has not fielded any candidate.

“There is a serious disconnect between the ordinary masses and the party despite all that Rahul Gandhi has done for the constituency on industry and agriculture. This may bring down the margin of Rahul Gandhi’s victory,” said Seobhusan Tiwari, a Congress leader.

In 2009, Rahul had won by a margin of 3.7 lakh votes over his nearest rival, Asheesh Shukla of the BSP. The BJP had polled just 37,570. His 2004 margin was 2.81 lakh.

The only Gandhi family member from the Congress to have lost from Amethi is Rahul’s late uncle Sanjay Gandhi. That was in 1977 after the Emergency.

Sanjay wrested back the seat in 1980. After he died in an aircraft crash, his elder brother Rajiv became MP. Old-timers recall how Amethi royal Sanjay Singh took Rajiv around during the 1984 elections.

Sources said the situation might have been different had Sanjay Singh, the party’s sitting MP from Sultanpur, joined the BJP as he had planned late last year. Rahul, who calls him “uncle” since childhood, persuaded him to remain with the party.

Supporters shower Rahul and Priyanka with flower petals. (AFP)

The Congress has offered Sanjay Singh a Rajya Sabha ticket from Assam and his wife, Amita Singh, a nomination from Sultanpur. Both were present when Rahul filed his papers.

Amethi votes on May 7