Though the Gandhi scion has been stressing for long on switching to new and innovative ways to revive the party’s sinking fortunes, things are definitely not on the brighter side yet. (JPN/Agencies)
Besides, the infighting within the Congress is making the matters worse. Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party is shedding its friendly face to throw a challenge to the Gandhi scion.
While Rahul Gandhi’s supporters may not yet admit it openly, there are enough signs that they are worried in the face of the gauntlet thrown at them by AAP's Kumar Vishwas.
The 'AAP effect' is already evident. Two-term MP Rahul Gandhi, who is also the Congress campaign chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, last week not only mingled freely with Amethi's people but offered a ride to a woman in his SUV.
He even interacted with the local media, which in the past would be kept at arm's length by the Special Protection Group which guards the Gandhi scion.
Not to stop at this, the Congress vice-president, after reaching New Delhi, sent family loyalist and Union Transport Minister Oscar Fernandes to Amethi to study the state of roads in the constituency.
Fernandes was also told to take ‘corrective measures’. This happened after a series of black flag protests Gandhi faced in Amethi. Close aides and local Congress leaders concede the contours of the electoral fight had changed after the AAP foray.
"We cannot ignore him," a Congress functionary said, pointing out that Kumar Vishwas is harping on the lack of development. This is finding takers here. His charge that he sees no real development despite Rahul Gandhi's claims of spending Rs 55,000 crore here is lapped up," a party source said.
There have also been street protests against a grim power scenario and poor roads in the Munshiganj, Injauna, Jagdishpur and Gauriganj areas.
The Congress fears that slogans of ‘road nahin to vote nahin' (no roads, no votes), which echoed in Karaundi village in Amethi earlier could revive.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi bagged 4.64 lakh votes or 71 percent of all votes. But just three years later, the Congress won only two out of the five Assembly seats in Amethi.
In Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the ruling party at the Centre could not win any of the five Assembly seats.
Camping in Amethi for over two weeks, Kumar Vishwas dared Rahul Gandhi in every public meeting.
"I am here to be with you and not to take your vote and fly off to Delhi," he said.
"I am nothing compared to Rahul Gandhi. He comes from a famous family; I have modest background," Kumar Vishwas said.
"I am here to challenge a work culture in politics that takes voters for granted," the AAP member added.
The ruling Samajwadi Party too might pitch a candidate against Rahul - unlike in the past, when it did not take on the Gandhis.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has promoted Gayatri Parasad Prajapati and Manoj Pandey, state legislators from Amethi and Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituencies, to the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet.
Prajapati said that Rahul Gandhi has lost the goodwill of Amethi and was also dismissive of the AAP.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also got into the act. "We will pit strong candidates against political heavyweights," said Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the state BJP spokesman.
Though the Gandhi scion has been stressing for long on switching to new and innovative ways to revive the party’s sinking fortunes, things are definitely not on the brighter side yet.