Amethi: Better known as the family bastion of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Amethi follows a unique tradition -- polling began at the Ram Nagar Primary School centre on Wednesday only after the local 'dhobi' (washerman) cast his vote.

While the polling centre opened at 7 a.m. sharp, everyone waited for 72-year-old Pancham Lal, who is accorded a 'VIP' status on all polling days in what was once upon a time a princely state.

His wife Chandra Kala too remains the privileged one to cast her vote just after the husband.

"I have enjoyed this privilege ever since I was entitled to vote many many years ago," Pancham Lal told media persons.

Even Amethi's erstwhile prince and now Sultanpur Congress MP Sanjay Singh made it a point to give way to the 'dhobi'. But of course, Sanjay Singh and his wife Amita Singh remained right behind the washerman to keep up the tradition.

Amethi remains a prestige issue for the Congress, which has held the seat for decades.

Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's son Sanjay Gandhi was the first to contest from here in 1975 and 1977, followed by his brother Rajiv Gandhi in 1981.

Soon after Rajiv's death, it was his pilot friend Satish Sharma who held the baton from here, but shortly thereafter, Rajiv's widow Sonia Gandhi got elected from here. Later, she handed the constituency over to her son Rahul Gandhi in 2002.

(Agencies)