Friday 24 May 2019 1:02 AM UTC
NEW DELHI May 24: Congress president Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat in Amethi, the constituency in Uttar Pradesh that he has been winning effortlessly since 2004, and congratulated the BJP’s Smriti Irani for her victory.
“I want Smriti Irani ji to keep people’s faith and take care of Amethi with love,” he told reporters in a brief press conference after the Congress’s massive defeat in the national election.
But losing Amethi is a huge loss of face for the 48-year-old politician, whose leadership of the Congress is also being called to question after the party’s defeat.
“Kaun kehta hai aasmaa me surakh nahinho sakta (who says one can’t achieve the impossible),” Smriti Irani quoted poet Dushyant Kumar in her tweet on her incredible win.
Amethi, a dusty, largely rural constituency around 130 km from UP capital Lucknow, has rarely looked beyond the Congress or the Gandhi family.
Smriti Irani campaigned aggressively in Amethi. In 2014, she had lost to Rahul Gandhi from Amethi but had managed to reduce his winning margin to one lakh. That should have served as enough warning for the Congress that it could not take the constituency for granted.
Smriti Irani kept visiting the constituency regularly over the past five years and virtually stationed herself in Amethi during her campaign.
Rahul Gandhi, his party’s chief campaigner across India, hardly went to his constituency in the run-up to the polls. He was accused by the BJP of neglecting Amethi.
At the height of the election campaign, the Congress president visited Amethi only once, when he held a roadshow before filing his nomination papers. His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned in Amethi and her mother Sonia Gandhi’s Raebareli and visited the constituencies several times. But it was too late by then.
The Congress has not lost the seat in the last three decades, except in 1998. Amethi, one of the only two Congress seats in 80-seat Uttar Pradesh along with Sonia Gandhi’s Raebareli, is a big acquisition for the BJP.
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