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regular-article-logo Thursday, 20 June 2024

Buzz over Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi's possible visit to Ram Mandir sets BJP aflutter

The Congress candidates for Amethi and Rae Bareli — the only two seats still not allotted by the party in Uttar Pradesh — will be named soon, party president Mallikarjun Kharge has said

Piyush Srivastava Lucknow Published 28.04.24, 06:41 AM
Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Karnataka’s Bellary district on Friday.

Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Karnataka’s Bellary district on Friday. PTI

Speculation in some circles that Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi may pray at the Ayodhya Ram temple ahead of filing papers for the Amethi and Rae Bareli parliamentary seats, respectively, has set the BJP rippling with concern.

The Congress candidates for Amethi and Rae Bareli — the only two seats still not allotted by the party in Uttar Pradesh — will be named soon, party president Mallikarjun Kharge has said.

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Priyanka has campaigned in multiple elections in the Amethi-Rae Bareli belt but never contested an election. Rahul, a former MP from Amethi, is seeking re-election from Wayanad in Kerala, which voted on Friday. Rae Bareli has been represented by Sonia Gandhi since 2004; she opted out of the Lok Sabha contest this year to secure a Rajya Sabha seat from Rajasthan.

Although Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh have stressed they are prepared to “campaign for and win both seats”, there is no word yet whether the Gandhi siblings will eventually join the battle to reclaim what used to be their family pocket boroughs.

Reacting to talk that Rahul and Priyanka may visit Ayodhya ahead of entering the Lok Sabha contest from Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Adityanath said on Saturday: "I have heard that brother and sister are going to visit the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Earlier, they used to deny the existence of Lord Ram but are now saying Lord Ram belongs to all."

Smriti Irani, who is seeking re-election from Amethi as a BJP nominee, said at a public meeting: "Rahul Gandhi used to insult Ram bhakts. He doesn’t respect Hindus. A Ram bhakt is one who respects all, including Sanatan Dharma…. He (Rahul) is coming here to lure you."

Sakshi Maharaj, BJP MP from adjoining Unnao, joined the Gandhi bashing uninvited, saying: “The Gandhi-Nehru family hates Ram bhakts. The people will give them a fitting reply.”

Dwijendra Tripathi, a senior Congress leader, saw in these reactions from BJP leaders a sign of their discomfort. “The BJP is uncomfortable because of the rumour that Rahul and Priyanka would worship at the Ram temple and contest from Amethi and Rae Bareli. This is because they believe they have the copyright over the Ram temple, and also because they know they will lose from these seats to our leaders,” said Tripathi.

A source in the Congress said a 10-member team of the party had arrived in Amethi on Saturday to discuss election issues with local leaders and get a sense of the ground situation.

“They will roam across the twin constituencies of Rae Bareli and Amethi over the next two days to plan the strategy,” said a senior Congress leader who didn’t want to be named.

Anil Singh, media-in-charge of the Congress in Amethi, said: “Our teams are ready to welcome Rahul. Our committees are in place at all 1,923 polling booths here. Ten core members are working as volunteers at each booth. Earlier we used to have three polling agents, this time we have four at each booth.”

He added: “Our team in Rae Bareli is already very strong.”

Amethi and Rae Bareli vote on May 20.

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