Rae Bareli’s tryst with Gandhi family in Lok Sabha elections

Anurag Roushan / IndiaTV

Rae Bareli: Lok Sabha Elections: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi‘s unexpected nomination from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh has reignited attention on this key constituency, first represented in the Lok Sabha by his grandfather, Feroze Gandhi, in the early years after India gained independence. Feroze Gandhi’s robust groundwork in the region was further developed by his wife, the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who secured victory from the seat in multiple elections spanning from 1967 to 1980. Following her tenure, the legacy was carried forward by several associates and kin of the Gandhi family.

When Indira left Rae Bareli to retain Medak 

In 1980, Indira Gandhi ran for elections from both Rae Bareli and Medak in Telangana, opting to retain the latter. The bypoll for Rae Bareli was won by Arun Nehru, who also secured victory in the subsequent 1984 election. Rae Bareli brought back to the Lok Sabha a number of Gandhi family members and associates, from Sheila Kaul, another Gandhi relative, to Arun Nehru, the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s right-hand man. Following Feroze Gandhi’s death, the seat was held by Congressman RP Singh in the 1960 by-election, then by another Congressman, Baij Nath Kureel, in 1962. Indira Gandhi’s aunt Sheila Kaul held the seat in 1989 and 1991.

Before Sonia Gandhi moved there in 1999, Satish Sharma, another Gandhi family acquaintance, served as the Rae Bareli constituency’s representative. The only other occasion the Congress did not hold the seat was following the Emergency in 1977, when Raj Narain of the Janata Party defeated then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as well as Ashoke Singh of the BJP in 1996 and 1998.

From Amethi to Rae Bareli: Sonia Gandhi’s political journey

When Sonia Gandhi first entered politics, she decided to make her electoral foray from the neighbouring Amethi Lok Sabha seat, which her husband Rajiv Gandhi had previously held. However, she soon gave up that seat in 2004 to make way for her son Rahul Gandhi’s political debut. After that, Sonia Gandhi won Rae Bareli four times between 2004 and 2019, albeit lately, her margin of victory has been decreasing. This year, she decided not to contest the Lok Sabha elections and decided to be a member of Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan.

Why Rahul Gandhi from Rae Bareli? 

The party’s calculation behind fielding Rahul from Rae Bareli instead of Amethi, also rests on the conclusion that Rae Bareli is a better, safer seat for the former Congress president, who lost Amethi to BJP’s Smriti Irani in 2019 by nearly 50,000 votes. Amid criticism that the Congress had given a walkout to Irani in Amethi, sources said, the party in its wisdom believed that Rae Bareli’s historical, emotional and electoral importance for the Gandhi family was higher than that of Amethi.

Farewell to Rae Bareli: Sonia Gandhi’s legacy and family ties

In her farewell message to the people of Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi had expressed confidence that the seat which always stood by her and the Gandhis will continue to support her family in future also. In the message on February 15, former party chief Sonia Gandhi informed voters of her Rae Bareli constituency that she would not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls due to health and age issues.

Noting that ties of her family with Rae Bareli are “very deep-rooted”, Sonia said Rae Bareli sent her father-in-law Feroze Gandhi to Lok Sabha in the first general election held after Independence. After that, you accepted my mother-in-law Indira Gandhi, she noted, adding that “ever since our relationship grew stronger on the difficult road to affection despite the highs and lows of life and our faith in this bond grew stronger.”


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