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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Feroze Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi: Rae Bareli's tryst with Congress

Amid criticism that the Congress had given a walkout to Smriti Irani in Amethi, sources said, the party in its wisdom believed that Rae Bareli's historical, emotional and electoral importance for the Gandhi family was higher than that of Amethi

PTI New Delhi Published 03.05.24, 10:33 AM
Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Sonia Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Sonia Gandhi PTI file picture

The surprise nomination of Rahul Gandhi from Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareli brings the focus back on the VVIP segment which was first represented in the Lok Sabha by the former Congress president's grandfather Feroze Gandhi, who held the seat in the first two elections after Independence.

The strong foundations that Feroze Gandhi laid in the constituency were later nurtured and strengthened by his wife and former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who won from the seat in 1967, 1971 and 1980, followed by friends and family members of the Gandhi family.

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Indira Gandhi contested from two seats in 1980 -- Rae Bareli and Medak in Telangana -- and chose to retain the Medak seat. Arun Nehru won the 1980 bypoll and subsequently in 1984.

From Arun Nehru, who was late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's right-hand man, to Sheila Kaul, another Gandhi kin, Rae Bareli returned several of the Gandhi family members and aides to the Lok Sabha.

The seat was held by Congress' R P Singh in the 1960 bypoll after the demise of Feroze Gandhi, and by another Congress leader Baij Nath Kureel in 1962.

Sheila Kaul, an aunt of Indira Gandhi, represented the seat in 1989 and 1991.

In 1999, another friend of the Gandhis, Satish Sharma represented the Rae Bareli constituency, till Sonia Gandhi shifted there.

The only time the Congress did not represent the seat was in the wake of the Emergency in 1977 when Janata Party's Raj Narain defeated Indira Gandhi, who was then the prime minister, and BJP's Ashoke Singh in 1996 and 1998.

Although Sonia Gandhi upon entering electoral politics chose to make her electoral foray from neighbouring Amethi Lok Sabha seat in 1999, a seat her husband Rajiv Gandhi had held earlier, she soon vacated it for her son Rahul's debut in politics in 2004.

Sonia Gandhi subsequently held Rae Bareli four times between 2004 and 2019, although of late, her winning margins began dwindling. The party's calculation behind fielding Rahul from Rae Bareli instead of Amethi, also rests on the conclusion that Rae Bareli is a better, safer seat for the former Congress president, who lost Amethi to BJP's Smriti Irani in 2019 by nearly 50,000 votes.

Amid criticism that the Congress had given a walkout to Irani in Amethi, sources said, the party in its wisdom believed that Rae Bareli's historical, emotional and electoral importance for the Gandhi family was higher than that of Amethi.

In her farewell message to the people of Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi had expressed confidence that the seat which always stood by her and the Gandhis will continue to support her family in future also.

In the message on February 15, former party chief Sonia Gandhi informed voters of her Rae Bareli constituency that she will not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls due to health and age issues.

In an emotional message to the constituents of the segment she has represented since 2004, the 77-year-old also threw subtle hints of a possible entry of a member of her family from Rae Bareli.

"I am proud to say that whatever I am today, I am because of you and I have always done my best to honour your trust. Now on account of health and age issues, I will not contest the next Lok Sabha election," she said in the message.

"After this decision, I will not have the opportunity to serve you directly but my heart and soul will always remain with you. I know that you will stand by me and my family in future, just as you have in the past," she said in the message.

The message to the voters came a day after she filed her nomination for the Rajya Sabha seat from Rajasthan.

She entered the Rajya Sabha for the first time and was the second member of the Gandhi family to do so, after Indira Gandhi who was a member of the upper house from 1964 to 1967.

In the message to voters, Sonia Gandhi further said, "My family in Delhi is incomplete without you. It completes when I come to Rae Bareli and meet all of you. My ties with you are very old. I have inherited these ties as a good fortune from my in-laws." Noting that ties of her family with Rae Bareli are "very deep rooted", she said Rae Bareli sent her father-in-law Feroze Gandhi to Lok Sabha in the first general election held after Independence.

After that, you accepted my mother-in-law Indira Gandhi, she noted, adding that ever since, our relationship grew stronger on the difficult road to affection despite the highs and lows of life and our faith in this bond grew stronger.

"You allowed me space to walk along on this shining path. I came to you after losing my mother-in-law and husband and you accepted me with open arms," the former Congress chief said.

Sending her respect to elders and love to youngsters, she had said in her message, "I will see you soon".

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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