The 2014 Amethi Lok Sabha contest still draws reporters from all over including a posse of western correspondents trying to make sense of happenings. It’s pretty easy really, but not simple, to read.
The Nehru-Gandhis have staked their prestige on victory. It is not so much about the Congress as it is about their first family. The opposition is divided but could make
Rahul Gandhi sweat over it.
Here then is the latest from Amethi.
Biggest finish in its history
Only those in their late 60s can recall when an Amethi election was this interesting. For younger voters, this is unprecedented excitement. The big guns have come to town as the contest draws to a close. Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Yogendra Yadav have followed Priyanka Vadra and Arvind Kejriwal to make it a packed last 48 hours of campaigning.
The BJP pulled everyone into it after the embarrassment of the ban on Baba Ramdev’s yoga camp. The last time so many big names were in Amethi was in 1989 when Rajiv Gandhi brushed aside Rajmohan Gandhi and Kanshi Ram.
Muslims move to AAP
A noticeable trend in Amethi is that many Muslim votes seem to be going to the Aam Aadmi Party. In the past, Amethi Muslims have backed the Congress in the Lok Sabha and the BSP and the Samajwadi Party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly. The Peace Party, headed by a Muslim, has pockets of influence. They now talk of voting the AAP’s Kumar Vishwas.
It is the only solid support the AAP has picked up in four months of its Amethi campaign. The primary reason for this appears to be Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to contest against Narendra Modi. It is being seen as an act of daring that needs to be supported. This could reduce Rahul Gandhi’s vote share this time.
Strange solo act
In the year 2000, began the seemingly endless Hindi soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi with Smriti Irani in a key role. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at the peak of his popularity as prime minister. By the time the series ended in 2008 – 1833 episodes later – Manmohan Singh was the man India looked to.
It is still the only recall factor Irani has. Hers is a solo campaign that talks only of the need to make Modi prime minister. She logs the miles in a Renault Duster; her audience is mostly small groups of children and women. Some vaguely remember they saw her somewhere – a reference to the TV series. She might have run Rahul Gandhi close with more help.
Nasty midnight work
Bunches of acerbic pamphlets appeared suddenly in Amethi with personal attacks on the Nehru-Gandhi family. Published in Hindi, they speak low of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Robert Vadra. Word is that the loose cannon Subramanian Swamy put them together for the BJP. They were delivered in the middle of the night in a surprise move.
Thus far, the RSS has stayed off Amethi because of the Nehru-Gandhis but the key presence of Modi and Swamy seems to have changed things. Rahul Gandhi makes no mention of these attacks and stresses instead on the personal relationship his family has with Amethi.
And the winner is
Rahul Gandhi is likely to win by a reduced margin from his mammoth 3.7 lakh majority in 2009. Irani could take second spot followed by the BSP and Vishwas pulling in the AAP at fourth spot. The Samajwadi Party has not done much either as part of a deal with the Nehru-Gandhis or simply because it is not interested.
More from the author
Modi, Rahul, Mayawati: The cabinet India needs!
The US has lost its clout in India
What I learned from covering 12 elections
At last, a super year for Indian TV
Aam Aadmi Party is like the Tehelka of politics
Rahul Gandhi may be the last of the Nehru-Gandhis
Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.