The Amethi Puzzle: Congress Weighs Candidate Amid Challenges

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi, scion of the famed political dynasty, suffered a historic upset, facing defeat to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Smriti Irani by a margin of 55,120 votes.

Processor Intelligence Unit
New Update

With inputs from Lokesh kumar Tripathi

As the nation gears up for the third phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, all eyes are on Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. Historically associated with the Nehru-Gandhi family's political legacy and a stronghold of the Congress party, the anticipation builds as the party delays its candidate announcement.

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections marked a significant moment in Amethi's political landscape, witnessing Rahul Gandhi, scion of the renowned political dynasty, suffering a surprising defeat to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Smriti Irani, by a margin of 55,120 votes. The aftershocks of this loss continue to echo through political discussions.

As the current election cycle unfolds, external factors such as the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the Congress's stance on contentious issues are poised to influence the electoral dynamics further. The party's decision not to participate in the ceremony underscores the intricate balance between secular principles and electoral pragmatism in Indian politics.

As part of the Opposition coalition known as INDIA, the Congress party has agreed to contest 17 out of Uttar Pradesh's 80 Lok Sabha seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress's alliance partner, will field candidates in the remaining 63 seats. Currently, the SP has announced the names of 20 candidates.

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In a shift from previous elections, former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has decided not to contest, while Rahul Gandhi has filed his nomination from Wayanad in Kerala. This decision has sparked speculation regarding potential contenders for the traditional Congress strongholds of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

Meanwhile, Robert Vadra, Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law, has shown interest in contesting from Amethi. Additionally, posters advocating for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's candidacy in Rae Bareli have emerged across the constituency. The deadline for filing nominations for both seats is May 3rd.

Amethi: History and Political Importance

Over the years, the electoral landscape of Amethi has undergone significant transformations, mirroring broader shifts in Indian politics. Once considered a stronghold for the Congress party, its grip on the constituency has loosened due to factors like anti-incumbency, the Modi wave, and the emergence of stable non-Congress governments in Uttar Pradesh, culminating in Rahul Gandhi's defeat in 2019.

Amethi Lok Sabha seat is among the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh (UP). It encompasses five Vidhan Sabha seats, amalgamating Amethi and Rae Bareli districts. Four Vidhan Sabha seats are from Amethi district, and one from Rae Bareli.

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Traditionally, it has been a Congress bastion. However, the BJP's strategic maneuvers and rigorous grassroots campaigning, combined with the Congress's detachment from local politics, played a pivotal role in the outcome of the 2019 elections.

According to the 2011 Census, the constituency has a population of 18.67 lakh. Demographically, 25% of the population comprises Scheduled Castes, while a negligible fraction (0.01%) represents Scheduled Tribes.

Smriti IraniSmriti Irani

Since its inception until 2019, the Congress party has consistently secured victories in Amethi, except for two instances. In the 1977 elections, Ravindra Pratap Singh of the Janata Party defeated Sanjay Gandhi, scion of the Gandhi family, who faced backlash for his actions during the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency. Additionally, in 1998, BJP's Sanjaya Sinh emerged victorious over the incumbent Congress MP Satish Sharma.

The Gandhis who have represented Amethi include Sanjay Gandhi (1980), Rajiv Gandhi (1981, 1984, 1989, 1991), Sonia Gandhi (1999), and Rahul Gandhi (2004, 2009, 2014).

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However, the performance of Congress party candidates in all assembly constituencies of the Amethi district has been notably poor. The organization of the Congress party at the grassroots level is weak. Instead of focusing on groundwork, Congress leaders and workers relied more on verbal promises. Conversely, candidates from other parties prioritized grassroots-level efforts over rhetoric, leading to success even in Congress strongholds.

The enduring prominence of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi on the national stage, along with the continued association with the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has also played a significant role. Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi established their presence in Amethi, with Rahul representing it for 15 years and Sonia for 5 years.

Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv GandhiRajiv Gandhi

During his tenure, Rajiv Gandhi spearheaded a wave of infrastructure development and institution-building in Amethi. Continuing his late brother Sanjay Gandhi's vision, he initiated the establishment of the Jagdishpur Industrial Estate in the 1980s, which facilitated the growth of various heavy industries including gas, power, construction, and metal and chemical manufacturing. Rajiv Gandhi's initiatives also led to the creation of mining and medium-scale factories across agriculture, real estate, finance, rice mills, transport, storage, and printing sectors.

Significantly, Rajiv Gandhi oversaw the inauguration of important healthcare facilities like the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital in 1982. The region also witnessed the establishment of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's Avionics Division in Korwa in 1983 and the Indira Gandhi National Aviation Academy in 1984. His efforts further enhanced connectivity to Amethi through the construction of highways linking Lucknow and Varanasi. Additionally, measures were taken to revitalize infertile and alkaline lands to bolster agricultural production.

Sonia Gandhi

SoniaSonia Gandhi

In 1999, Sonia Gandhi ventured into active politics by contesting and emerging victorious from Amethi, securing a significant mandate with 4,18,960 votes. This marked a crucial juncture in her political journey, as she initially hesitated to enter politics following her husband Rajiv Gandhi's demise. Before Sonia's triumph, Satish Sharma had represented the constituency in the 1991 bye-election and in 1996, prior to losing to the BJP's Sanjaya Sinh in 1998.

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However, despite Sonia Gandhi's electoral success, projects in Amethi encountered stagnation during her tenure, and the industries established during Rajiv Gandhi's leadership experienced a decline.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul GandhiRahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi secured victories in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency in the years 2004, 2009, and 2014. His electoral triumphs coincided with the surprise defeat of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2004, leading to the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Making his electoral debut, Rahul Gandhi, serving as the Congress vice-president, won by a significant margin of 2,90,853 votes, triumphing over both BJP and BSP challengers, solidifying his position in the Gandhi bastion of Amethi.

In subsequent elections in 2009 and 2014, Rahul Gandhi retained his seat with convincing victories. In 2009, he secured a margin of over 3 lakh votes, while in 2014, despite facing the Modi wave, he emerged victorious by 1,07,903 votes. His opponent in 2014 was Smriti Irani of the BJP, who was making her debut in electoral politics.

During the initial decade of Rahul Gandhi's tenure, the UPA held power, with either the BSP or Congress ally SP governing Uttar Pradesh. While several projects were announced in Amethi, delays in clearances stalled many, including the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, Hindustan Paper Mill, a food park in Jagdishpur, and the Samrat Cycle Factory. However, successful initiatives such as the establishment of the Indira Gandhi Eye Hospital & Research Centre in 2005 and local eye camps and self-help groups spearheaded by Rahul Gandhi were notable achievements during this period.

Leading up to the 2014 elections, several projects were inaugurated in Amethi, including the four-lane road connecting Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Amethi-Sultanpur connecting bridge, the Amethi Mega Food Park, and the Amethi Integrated Textile Park.


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During the first term of the Modi government, the BJP faced accusations from the Congress of deliberately stalling projects in Amethi. These included initiatives such as a branch of the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Information, a food park project, and a Discovery Park, which remained stagnant since 2014. Additionally, the relocation of the Hindustan Paper Mill from Amethi in 2015 added to the discontent.

However, ahead of the Uttar Pradesh state polls in 2017, the Central government announced a series of projects worth Rs 702 crore in Amethi. These encompassed the establishment of 140 food processing units, cold chains, the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), the Institute of Hotel Management, the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI), and a paper mill. The operationalization of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology and a Group Centre for the CRPF also occurred in Amethi. Despite these developments, the BJP clinched a resounding victory in the state polls, securing 312 seats, while the Congress managed just seven seats, none of which were in Amethi.

From Sanjay Gandhi's initial defeat in 1977 to Rajiv Gandhi's transformative tenure marked by infrastructure development, Amethi has witnessed moments of triumph and adversity for the Nehru-Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi's victory in 1999 and Rahul Gandhi's consecutive wins in 2004, 2009, and 2014 underscore the enduring bond between the Gandhis and Amethi.

However, the 2019 elections marked a watershed moment, with Smriti Irani's victory ending the Nehru-Gandhi family's decades-long dominance in Amethi. The BJP's concerted efforts to address local grievances and deliver development projects resonated with voters, signaling a seismic shift in Amethi's political landscape.

Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, the Congress faces formidable challenges in reclaiming lost ground in Amethi. The party's alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) under the INDIA bloc represents a strategic maneuver to counter the BJP's dominance. However, past experiences, including the failed alliance in the 2017 assembly elections, highlight the complexities of coalition politics in Uttar Pradesh.

In Raebareli, Sonia Gandhi's withdrawal from electoral politics raises questions about the Congress's future trajectory. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's potential candidacy underscores the enduring legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi family and its role in shaping the party's fortunes.

As the electoral landscape evolves, Amethi remains a symbol of political flux and reinvention. Rahul Gandhi's potential return to the fray carries with it the weight of history and the imperatives of contemporary politics. Whether the Congress can adapt to changing dynamics and reclaim its erstwhile bastion remains to be seen.