Saturday , June 22 2024

Sonia makes emotional appeal to voters on behalf of son


Bureau Report + Agencies

NEW DELHI: Sonia Gandhi, the leader of India’s Congress party, made an emotional appeal to voters in the family borough, asking them to vote for her son in a region that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party have dominated in the last ten years.

Standing on stage on Friday with her children Rahul and Priyanka, Gandhi, the party’s former chief and former lawmaker from Raebareli in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said her family had a special connection with the constituency.

Raebareli, which goes to the polls in the fifth phase of India’s seven phase-long general election, has returned a Congress candidate in 17 of the 20 elections held there since 1952, mostly members of the Gandhi family.

Sonia Gandhi decided not to contest the seat in the current election and her son, Rahul was announced as the candidate from the region.

“I am handing over my son to you. Just as you made me yours, please treat him as one of your own. He will not disappoint you,” Gandhi said, to loud cheers from the crowd.

Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, will also contest from Wayanad in Kerala state in the south, which has already voted. India allows candidates to contest multiple constituencies but they can represent only one.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and elects 80 lawmakers to the lower house of parliament, the most of any state and is considered crucial to winning a national election.

In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and allies won 64 seats, including Amethi, adjacent to Raebareli.

Modi is expected to win a third term in the election that got underway on April 19 and concludes on June 1, with votes set to be counted on June 4.

In February, Sonia Gandhi, one of the most prominent leaders of India’s main opposition Congress party, will not contest the upcoming elections, citing her increasing age and depleting health, according to a letter she has written to her constituency.

She will continue to have a significant role in Indian politics though, as she will join parliament’s indirectly elected upper house, for which she filed her nomination earlier this week.

Italian-born 77-year-old Sonia is widow to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, whose mother, Indira and Grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru were also prime ministers.

Congress, which was the country’s predominant party for decades after independence, is now a shadow of its former self, and was reduced to just 52 seats of the 545 in the lower house of parliament by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ascendant Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019 elections.

Modi, 73, is widely expected to win a rare third term in elections due by May, though a recent poll suggested that Congress could perform slightly better than 2019.

“Given my health and increasing age, I will not be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Gandhi wrote on Wednesday, thanking the people of Rae Bareili, which she has represented for the last 20 years, in the politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh state that sends 80 seats to the lower house of parliament.

It was the only seat in the state her party won in 2019.

Voters elect members to the lower house, but state legislators elect members of the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

Gandhi’s son, Rahul, is on his second cross-country march in the last two years, trying to revive the party’s fortunes. A coalition led by Congress he helped stitch with more than two dozen opposition parties seems to be ripping at the seams.

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