Akhilesh Singh, the sitting MLA from Rae Bareli, always manages to give the Congress a run for their votes
On 16 February Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Rae Bareli. Around 5,000 people gathered in the dusty field of Unchahar assembly seat to hear the son of their MP speak. At the same time, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a series of public meetings and roadshows in Rae Bareli city. Dozens waited along side the road to greet her. Contrast this to the rally organised by sitting MLA and Peace Party candidate Akhilesh Singh. Over 10,000 people from the city alone had gathered to listen to this former Congressman and four-time MLA who went on ranting and abusing the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Singh accuses the family of corruption and partitioning the country. He taunts Priyanka for only returning every five years to seek vote. He accuses Sonia Gandhi of corruption. He speaks about the ‘Tata Bye Bye’ style of campaigning by Priyanka. Some of the comments made by him against her aren’t even publishable.
When asked about his remarks, Singh remains completely unapologetic. For the last 10 years, the Gandhis have been trying every possible way to defeat Akhilesh Singh from the Rae Bareli city assembly seat but have always failed. During her campaigning, Priyanka speaks about the atmosphere of fear created by him. Singh was thrown out of the party after being accused in a murder case of a fellow Congressman in 2002. He was already the deputy leader of the party in the assembly by then. “The Brahmin leaders of the party were jealous of me and wanted me out. That’s why they fabricated this case against me,” he says. In 2007, Singh fought the election from jail as an independent and won by 96,000 votes. Once out of prison, he became staunchly anti-Congress and more anti-Nehru-Gandhi family in the recent years. He compares himself to Subhash Chandra Bose, Ambedkar and JP Narayan who were also deserted by the Congress due to their opposition to Nehru.
This time Singh is fighting the election on a Peace Party ticket and is also the party’s General Secretary. “My fight is not with the puppets put up by Sonia Gandhi. My fight is directly with her,” he says. He challenges the Gandhi family to organise a bigger rally than him. Commentators and senior journalists from the area expect him to win again. “You see he is always present in the constituency and you like it or not he is quite accessible when compared to the Gandhi family,” says bureau chief of a leading Hindi daily. Akhilesh Singh’s family had a long association with the Congress party. His father Dhuni Singh was a popular Congress leader. His brother Ashok Singh was a part of the Congress and later joined BJP and won the Rae Bareli Parliamentary seat.
While Congress insiders in Rae Bareli accept that it is difficult to defeat Akhilesh Singh, they point out that Sonia Gandhi has always got votes from this area during Parliamentary elections but in the assembly elections, the Congress always gets a drubbing.
Published in Tehelka: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ws160212congress.asp