Amethi, story of a defeat foretold

Amethi’s people were clearly losing patience with the Gandhi family’s sense of entitlement over the constituency

  • Published 24.05.19, 3:13 AM
  • Updated 24.05.19, 3:13 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Smriti Irani at a counting centre in Amethi on Thursday. (PTI)

Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat to Union minister Smriti Irani in Amethi around 6pm in full view of the media, hours before the final result had come in.

The Congress president, who lost by 55,120 votes, had clearly read the writing on the wall. He had probably read it weeks earlier when he decided to contest also from Wayanad in Kerala.

That decision may have played a part in his defeat, which came despite the mahagathbandhan sitting out the election in Amethi to avoid dividing the anti-BJP vote.

Rahul’s move to contest from Wayanad had led to a perception in Amethi that he did not trust his constituents, who had been loyal to the Gandhi family even when they had shuffled the seat among themselves. Even the possibility of being represented by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — if Rahul won both seats and opted to retain Wayanad —seems not to have been an incentive for Amethi’s voters.

“Better to pack him off from here at one go than waste our money on another election just to ensure that we continue to be represented by the Nehru-Gandhi family,’’ was an oft-heard comment in the constituency.

Not only was the Gandhis’ charm wearing thin, Amethi’s people were clearly losing patience with the family’s sense of entitlement over the constituency. What made matters worse for Rahul — compared to his mother Sonia Gandhi in adjoining Rae Bareli — were his non-attentive ways and his local team’s extreme unpopularity.

Sonia’s victory margin in Rae Bareli too fell to less than half of the 2014 figure. She, however, had not attracted the kind of anger that Rahul had. The perception was that the mother had nursed her constituency whereas the son only made flying visits to his.

Signs that Amethi could become a tough hurdle for Rahul had appeared as far back as 2014, when Smriti had emerged as a challenger, pruning his victory margin down to just over 1 lakh.

The defeat did not stop Smriti from continuing to nurse the constituency, and the effort clearly paid off. She was able to drop anchor in the constituency through the campaign while Rahul could just manage a visit or two owing to the demands on his time elsewhere.

With the Samajwadis not fielding a candidate in Amethi, conventional wisdom suggested that Rahul would scrape through. What it did allow him in the end was a less humiliating defeat.

As Rahul conceded defeat, Smriti quoted a line from a Hindi poem by Dushyant Kumar to assert that nothing was impossible.

“Kaun kehta hai asman mein surakh nahin ho sakta (Who says you can’t make a crack in the sky),” she tweeted.