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Next door to Rahul & Sonia domains,a Raja stays aloof

Sanjay Singh stays out of campaigning,voters say Sultanpur suffers as a result of rift

Written by Maulshree Seth | Amethi,sultanpur |
February 15, 2012 3:32:46 am

Days ahead of polling in the region,Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a joint road-show in Sultanpur along with Sanjay Singh,the local Congress MP. And locals say it was sight rarely seen,for the party here is not as united as the public appearance would suggest.

“We saw all three together for the first time,including Raja Saheb (Sanjay Singh). Apparently,he is being ignored in the party,” Pradeep Singh,a farmer,says after the roadshow has passed through his village.

Indeed,the roadshow and the public meeting are the only occasions where Sanjay Singh has been seen campaigning in Sultanpur. He has canvassed in Amethi from where his wife,two-time MLA Amita,is contesting; that seat is an Assembly segment of Rahul’s Lok Sabha seat.

Singh’s Sultanpur,Rahul’s Amethi and Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli form a contiguous belt,each with five segments. Eight of those 15 Assembly seats,including the five in Sultanpur,are voting on Wednesday.

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In Sultanpur,the talk is about how upset the “Raja of Amethi” is. One reason is that he was apparently not consulted in the selection of the candidates for the five seats. Another is that in Amethi,a section of Congress leaders are working against Amita Singh and quietly supporting SP candidate Gayatri Prasad.

Voters in Sultanpur say they have been neglected as a result,not only by Gandhi family members whom they see working aggressively a few kilometres away in Amethi and Rae Bareli,but also by their own MP. They have started to express doubts about the Congress’s ability to “stand united for the people’s cause”.

“Rahul and Priyanka are like seasonal flowers,whom everyone wants to see. But Priyanka restricted herself to just three constituencies under Rahul’s constituency,” says Pradeep. “Sanjay Singh,our MP,did not come here at all. How can we expect them to work together for our region?”

Sanjay Singh,who famously went against the Congress’s stand on FDI,is straightforward about not campaigning in Sultanpur. “Neither the party nor the candidates wanted me to be there and part of it,so I did not go,” he says.

About the alleged neglect of Thakurs in the party,he says,“All I would say is that if Thakurs were given importance,it would have shown better results.” On FDI in retail,he stands by his opposition. And on supposed drawbacks in the party’s campaign: “They have to put the right people in the right places,that’s all.”

A local Congressman admits there is a divide between the party and Sanjay Singh,and confirms that the MP was not consulted on the selection of candidates.

“People are weighing their options between the Congress and SP candidates in Amethi. Rani Saheba did work for the region like organising health camps,opening schools,but people are looking for change and feel that Gayatri Prasad can give her a good contest,” says Anil Kumar,an advocate in Amethi.

Other locals feel that for all the Congress’s claims about a revival in the state,the inner conflicts have left the contest mainly between the SP and BSP candidates.

In Sultanpur Assembly seat,a large number of people are happy with their sitting SP MLA,Anoop Sanda,whom they call a man who has a clean image,who has used his MLA funds generously,and who has stood up for local issues. The BSP contestant is former MP Mohd Tahir Khan,who has land-grabbing cases registered against him.

Former BSP MLA Chandra Bhadra Singh (Sonu),who was allegedly involved in the murder of revenue official Ram Kumar Yadav,is contesting as a Peace Party candidate. Yadav’s wife Kamla Devi (report below) is campaigning for the young Congress candidate,Sandeep Tiwari,but locals say she would be able to mobilise votes only in her own village of Manjhwara.

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