Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination for the Lok Sabha election in Raebareli today

New Delhi:

Mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra by his side, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today field nomination papers for the Raebareli Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra were also with Mr Gandhi as he submitted the papers at the district magistrate’s office.

Early this morning, the Congress leadership announced its candidates for two high-profile seats – Amethi and Raebareli. Putting an end to speculation that Mr Gandhi may be fielded from Amethi, a seat he has represented thrice in Lok Sabha, the Congress picked Kishori Lal Sharma for the seat.

Rae Bareli is considered one of the safest seats for the Congress. Out of the 20 elections it has witnessed so far, the Congress has won 17. History, however, also records an odd distinction for this seat — Raebareli is the seat from where a sitting Prime Minister lost an election. This was when Indira Gandhi was defeated by Janata Party’s Raj Narain in the 1977 elections after Emergency. Earlier, the seat has been represented by Mr Gandhi’s grandfather and Indira Gandhi’s husband, Feroze Gandhi.

Over the past two decades, the seat has elected Sonia Gandhi. Despite the wave in support of the BJP in 2014 and 2019, this seat stayed with the Congress. Mrs Gandhi has now moved to Rajya Sabha, vacating the prestige seat for her son. In Raebareli, Mr Gandhi is up against the BJP’s Dinesh Pratap Singh, who finished a runner-up in the 2019 election.

Congress’s Amethi pick Mr Sharma is a long-term loyalist of the Gandhi family and has been working as an MP’s representative in the two constituencies for a long time. Congress leaders say he is a grassroots man and hope this will pay off in the polls.

Speaking to the media, Mr Sharma said he has been working in Amethi for 40 years now. “I am very grateful that the Congress has given this opportunity to an ordinary worker like me. I came here in 1987 as a Youth Congress member and from then I have been here. I started my career with Rajiv (Gandhi) ji. In 1987, Rajivji brought me here. Then the circumstances were such that I stayed here.” 

Ms Gandhi Vadra praised Mr Sharma and wished him luck. “Kishori Lal Sharma shares a bond with our family. He has been dedicated to serving the people of Amethi and Rae Bareli. His zeal for public service is an example,” she said. “It is heartening that the Congress has named him its candidate from Amethi. His dedication and sense of duty will surely bring him success in this election,” she posted on X.

But Mr Sharma’s fight is not going to be easy. He is up against Union Minister Smriti Irani, who had trumped Rahul Gandhi in the 2019 election. Ms Irani has been camping in the constituency for a while now and has the advantage of a headstart due to the BJP’s early announcement of her candidature.

Ms Irani says she has worked very hard in Amethi and has taken a swipe at Mr Gandhi for “conceding defeat before the polls”.

Like Raebareli, Amethi, too, has been a Gandhi family stronghold for years and has been represented by four Gandhis so far — Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.