In Amethi, it’s mixed opinions on polls

A view of a street in Amethi. DH Photo/B S Arun

It is undoubtedly one of the most closely watched constituencies in the current Lok Sabha elections. The spirited campaign put up by both the Congress and the BJP for their high-profile candidates — Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani — has enthused the respective party workers.

It is as though everyone in Amethi is talking about elections in this backward region of Uttar Pradesh, a seat that has been the bastion of the Gandhi family for long and which Rahul has been representing for the last three terms, since 2004.

There is a strange bonhomie, rather than exchange of words, when small gatherings discuss politics. A cross-section of people whom DH spoke to in Amethi and other parts of the constituency share mixed opinion on elections.

“Look at this,” pointed out Raj Gupta, a shop owner near the Ambedkar chouraha on the town’s Sultanpur road.

“Amethi is a civic mess. The drain is not covered. In fact, we have only an open drainage system. Look at the traffic jam in front of my shop with trucks lining up on this small road in the heart of the town. Nothing has changed in the last 10 years. Why should I vote for Rahul?” he said.

Hritikesh, a friend of his and an accounts manager in a private firm in Lucknow, who joined in the discussion, had a different opinion, though.

“Several industries have come to Amethi thanks to the Gandhi family. These factories brought in employment opportunities for the locals. Suppose we had other MPs, would these factories have come to Amethi? Yes, there may be problems of basic amenities but why blame Rahul for that? What about the local MLA and local bodies?” Hritikesh said.

Lakshmi Kant Tiwari is a first-time voter. He says boys and girls of his age are largely for the BJP because they want to vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There are no proper hospitals with specialities and says he had to take his mother to Lucknow for a lung infection treatment.

For Himmat Singh, a farmer near Gaurigunj town, Smriti is the right candidate.

“Many are happy that though she lost in 2014, she kept in touch with the constituency. Please check how many times she visited Amethi and how many times the one who won visited. She is bound to do well,” Himmat Singh.

When asked about Rahul’s announcement of Rs 72,000 per year for the poor, he says not many know about this and those who know won’t believe the promise.

Radhey Sham, who owns a cycle shop, is a die-hard Congress loyalist. “There is a fight this time but Rahul will be the winner. BJP’s is only a campaign. People won’t be carried away, even those who are on the fence will vote for Congress because of the affinity with the Gandhi family.”

Moti Ram is worried about his children. “Amethi or its neighbourhood have no proper facilities for higher education. We need to get our children educated well.”

These remarks show that Amethi is a keenly fought battle as no inch is left to be grabbed. The outcome will be watched with added interest across the country.

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