The Congress on Thursday named United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi as its candidate from Rae Bareli, along with its first list of 15 candidates for the upcoming
Lok Sabha elections. The list also includes party president Rahul Gandhi, who will contest from Amethiâthe seat he has held for last three terms as a member of parliament.
The Gandhi matriarch's announcement has ended all speculation that she may not contest in the upcoming polls due to health reasons and the seat may go to the party's newly-appointed general secretary
Priyanka Gandhi, who is also in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Sonia Gandhi has held Rae Bareli since 2004, including in 2014 Lok Sabha polls when the Congress tally in Uttar Pradesh was reduced to just two seatsâthe other seat being Rahul Gandhi's Amethi.
The two seats are considered bastions of the Gandhi family and, except Indira Gandhi's loss in 1977, the first family of the Congress party has never lost elections in Rae Bareli. Indira Gandhi lost to Bhartiya Lok Dal's candidate Raj Narain in a historic election in March 1977 in the aftermath of the emergency.
Likewise, the only time the Gandhi family has lost an election in Amethi was in 1977 when Sanjay Gandhi was defeated by BLD's Ravindra Pratap Singh.
In 2014 elections, Sonia Gandhi defeated BJP candidate Ajay Agarwal by over 3.5 lakh votes despite a 'Modi wave'. The UPA chairperson secured 526,434 votes, while Agarwal could manage 173,721 votes. In 2009 and 2004 elections as well, Sonia secured well over 50 percent vote, defeating her rivals by massive margins.
In Amethi in 2014, Rahul Gandhi secured 408,651 votes, while his BJP rival Smriti Irani managed to garner 300,748 votes. Rahul's victory margin dropped to just 107,903 votes, compared to massive margins in the previous two elections in 2009 and 2004. In 2009, Rahul defeated his BSP rival by a margin of over 3.7 lakh votes, and in 2004 the victory margin stood above 2.9 lakh votes.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been making consistent efforts to wrest the two seats, including fielding Irani against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in the 2014 polls. The party will likely field Irani again from Amethi as she has been paying visits to the constituency on multiple occasions despite her defeat.
The BJP has also announced a slew of development projects in the constituency as recently as this week when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced development projects worth Rs 538 crore for the constituency, including laying the foundation stone of a manufacturing unit for AK-203 files in a joint Indo-Russian venture.BJP's task is cut out, however, as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have decided to not field any candidates in the two constituencies, leaving it for the Congress. A lack of division of votes may likely not help the party's cause.