Lok Sabha election 2019: Irani beats Gandhi by 49K votes, Congress loses Amethi seat for first time since 1998

Smriti Irani was defeated in Amethi in 2014. The 43-year-old leader bounced back to extract revenge on Thursday, defeating Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his pocket borough by more than 49103 votes at 10pm.

In New Delhi in the evening, Gandhi conceded defeat. “I would like to congratulate Smriti Irani for winning. Amethi has chosen her and I would want that she takes care of it with love and responsibility,” he said at a press conference.

“Kaun kahta hai aasman me surakh nahi ho sakta…” Irani wrote on Twitter immediately after Gandhi’s comment, quoting from a couplet by poet Dushyant Kumar who wrote: “kaun kahta hai aasman mein surakh nahi ho sakta, ek patthar to tabiyat se uchalo yaaron [who says the sky is impenetrable, Try throwing a stone at it with conviction].”

Irani did display conviction to defeat Gandhi in Amethi – something that was unimaginable until 2014. That too when the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance announced support to the Congress in the constituency and did not field a candidate. The previous election was the first time Gandhi had smelled a near defeat, for a while in the early round. In one of the most closely watched fights of 2014, Irani reduced his victory margin from 370,000 votes in 2009 to 108,000. Gandhi’s vote share was down from 71.8% to 46.7% between the two elections.

Also read: ‘Will take everyone along, even opponents’: PM Modi after big win

Irani lost, but did not give up. She was rewarded with a Cabinet berth in the Narendra Modi government in 2014 and returned to Amethi often, and with great more enthusiasm. The BJP’s massive mandate in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 assembly elections gave the party more energy to prepare the ground for 2019 battle. Every discussion in the BJP about Uttar Pradesh, there would invariably be a lot of time spent on Amethi. Gandhi’s decision to contest from another seat (Wayanad in Kerala) proved to be the last straw, and Smriti made the best out of it.

The day Gandhi filed his nomination papers from Wayanad, Irani was in Amethi. “My party leadership has sent me to empower Amethi whose MP ruined it completely. After using Amethi to enjoy power for 15 years, the MP is now leaving it for another constituency. Amethi won’t tolerate this deceit, insult and injustice,” Smriti told the crowd. Gandhi now becomes the first member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to lose in Amethi. In neighbouring Rae Bareli, former prime minister the late Indira Gandhi lost in 1977.On Thursday, the Rae Bareli seat was won by Sonia Gandhi.

First Published:
May 24, 2019 00:03 IST

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