Three years after voting out Rahul Gandhi, Amethi weighs what it has gained
Amethi elected Smriti Irani as its MP in 2019 and being 'Amethi Ki Beti' , she is building a house for herself. While the MP is new, not much is as people point to institutions built earlier
Three years have gone by since Rahul Gandhi lost from Amethi his Lok Sabha seat. He contested from Wayanad too in Kerala in 2019 from where he won.
Voters in Amethi chose Union Minister Smriti Irani, believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They were also taken in by promises of a 'double engine' government. What would the people get by voting for Rahul Gandhi and having him sit in the opposition?
Three years down the line they should therefore have been happier. But a day long visit to Amethi show people to be disillusioned, if not disgruntled.
Barring the Member of Parliament, not much has changed in Amethi, they say. “Smriti Irani’s visit to Amethi is nothing but photo-ops. She only talks about schemes, but nothing has materialised in the last three years,” says a local journalist on condition of anonymity.
“The only positive point about her is she meets people regularly and her con- nect with the masses is good,” he added. “Even the Sainik school which is likely to come up in the district soon was a project initiated by the UPA government,” he
added. This is something one hears quite often.
An example cited is the Rifle fac-tory in Munshiganj. “The founda-tion stone of the scheme was laid during the UPA regime. The BJP only inaugurated the scheme. This is akin to what had happened across Uttar Pradesh where BJP government inaugurated the schemes that were launched by Akhilesh Yadav,” said an old-timer.
There are two industrial towns under Amethi parliamentary constituency – Jagdishpur and Trishundi. People say no new projects have come in the last several years.
Some Primary Health Centres (PHCs) have indeed been upgraded to Community Health Centres (CHCs). The CHC in Salon has been upgraded to 150 beds while in Jammo it is a 100-bed hospital. Oxygen plants however were installed in every district. While a medical college has been promised, it is still on the drawing board stage.
Smriti Irani likes to call herself as Amethi ki ladki and has purchased land in Gauriganj, where she is building a house for herself. Why then did the people sound unhappy and doubt- ful of her chances of retaining the seat in 2024? Their MP does visit the constituency regularly, they conceded. She also meets people and goes to villages. She also has a team on the ground and a hyper-active media team. Yet, “aisa koi kaam nahin kiya jo deekhta ho”, (She hasn’t done anything substantial) is the refrain. But others hotly dispute the claim. The railway station at Gauriganj has received a facelift, they point out.
A local wit volunteered that she is being defeated by Modi. Chronic unemployment and rising prices are driving people up the wall but she has no answers to give to the people who raise these issues.
“Smriti Irani is competing with Maneka Gandhi,” offered a biker at a petrol pump. “Both are MPs and Maneka Gandhi too is nurs- ing Sultanpur,” he adds before disappearing in a cloud of dust.
Rahul Gandhi’s personal goodwill seems to be intact. Many admit they are still fond of him. “He lost because he wasn’t able to fulfil everyone’s expectation of a job,” said a person who refused to share his name. Some also grudgingly admit that during the second wave of the pandemic, it was their former MP who helped many of them. They also seem to be aware that governmental support for several initiatives by the former MP have dried up, affecting even the Self Help Groups promoted in the constituency by Rahul Gandhi.
A few admitted that they do feel cheated. Compared to what the UPA Government did for us, they recalled, ‘we have received nothing that is comparable’. Amethi is still known for institutions built by the Congress, they said. The BJP government has indeed announced that Fursatganj airport will be utilised for domestic flights. But that promise too is on paper
A particularly vocal Dayanand Mishra from Tiloi asks, “What has the present MP done to give employment to our youth? Has she been able to attract even a single industry? The 200- bed hospital here is also a project drawn during Rahul Gandhi’s time. How much more time does the present MP require to usher in changes,” he fumes.
One of the major electoral issues raised by Irani in 2019 were poor condition of roads. Every time she was late in arriving for a rally, she would taunt the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. There are more potholes than roads here, she would crib. But despite her and UP
chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s promise of a ‘Gaddha-mukt” or pot- hole-free Amethi and Uttar Pradesh, roads and potholes seem to mock them around Fursatganj on the Sultanpur- Rae Bareli highway.
Smriti Irani could not have forgotten the Hydergarh Road, which was turned by her into an election issue, asks Kaushalendra Singh. The stretch between Semrauta to Hydergarh, he claimed, was today worse than it was in 2019.
“Even after the stretch was dug up for laying a new road, there is no sign of a new road. But stone tablets
claiming completion of the road projects have indeed come up,” he adds. BJP leaders now cite budget constraints and responsibility of con- tractors. Yes, we have elected a new MP but Tiloi is where it was even before the 2019 general election.
“We are now placated by citing better electricity supply (thanks to massive addition to thermal power capacity in UPA years) and more regular water supply, says Shailendra Mishra.
Between Rae Bareli and Jayas, one can see three major establishments in the 30-kilometre stretch. Indira Gandhi National Flying Academy set up in 1985 during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as PM. It has been converted into an aviation university. But after the Government built the infrastructure, it was handed over to a private body to run the courses. It is now known more for corruption allegations and squabbling between the VC and the Registrar.
Similarly, the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology at Bahadurpur, set up at a cost of Rs. 1,000 crore by UPA govt, is used by Smriti Irani to address students, but she doesn’t have any plan to expand its footprint or make it more versatile. The Footwear Design Development Institute is also a remind- er of the commitment to the region of the Gandhi family.