Sonia files nomination, Rae Bareli promises thumping win (Lead)

April 6th, 2009 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi By Sharat Pradhan
Rae Bareli, April 6 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday filed her nomination papers to contest the Lok Sabha election from this Gandhi family bastion in Uttar Pradesh, with roaring crowds promising to elect her by record margins.

People went delirious as the Congress president drove through the thickly populated parts of Rae Bareli town. Cries of “Sonia Gandhi, Zindabad” and “Rajiv Gandhi Amar Rahen” rent the air, as her small motorcade drove past the streets. Many showered rose petals on the cars.

The mass of Congress supporters vowed to send her back to the Lok Sabha by improving her victory margin of 417,000 votes of 2004.

“Our endeavour is to see her creating yet another record by increasing her victory margin,” said 70-year-old Shiv Pratap Misra, who has been wedded to the Congress and the Gandhi family since 1967 when Indira Gandhi, Sonia’s mother-in-law and prime minister for 16 long years, first entered the electoral fray from here.

Rae Bareli will go the polls April 30 in the third phase of India’s staggered elections. This is the third time Sonia Gandhi is contesting from Rae Bareli.

The only time Indira Gandhi lost this seat was in 1977, when the Janata Party crushed the Congress nationally, but she staged a dramatic comeback three years ago.

In 2004, all 15 opponents of Sonia Gandhi lost their security deposit. Her closest rival, Raj Kumar Chaudhary of the Samajwadi Party, polled only 57,600 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Vinay Katiyar secured a paltry 6,200 votes. Although the overall polling was only 42 percent, as many as 72 percent of the votes went to her kitty.

Posters on the walls of Rae Bareli reminded people about the constituency’s old links with the Gandhi family.

Read one: “Rishta bahut purana hai, Bahu ko bhari maton se jitana hai” (Rae Bareli’s relationship is very old, we have to ensure a record win for the daughter-in-law.)

Adhering to the norms laid down by the Election Commission, Sonia Gandhi, dressed in a beige saree with a red and green print, and her son Rahul got off their vehicle outside the gates of the collectorate. Guarded by the Special Protection Group, they walked 100 metres to reach the returning officer’s chamber.

Four sets of nomination papers were filed by her. District Congress committee chief Uma Shankar Misra and party legislators Raja Ram Tyagi, Ashok Singh and Shiv Ganesh Lodhi were the proposers.

Walking down the roads in Rae Bareli or driving along its rural spread, the support for Sonia Gandhi was overwhelming and cut across economic, caste and religious divides.

Anyone who was asked had a common reply: “We are for Sonia Gandhi.” Asked why, they would respond: “She has given us everything here.”

Many in Rae Bareli are not even aware who are Sonia Gandhi’s rivals.

The handicap of finding locals to oppose the Congress chief has probably led both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to import candidates from other districts.

While BJP president Raj Nath Singh handpicked Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activist Rakesh Bahadur Singh for the job, BSP leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has named R.S. Kushwaha of Allahabad to take on the “bahu” (daughter-in-law) of the Gandhi family.

Both before and after filing the nomination papers, Sonia Gandhi kept the family traditions going.

While a ‘havan’ at the local Congress office preceded the nomination, she drove down to Taklia village to pray at the tomb of scholar Maulana Ali Mian, who once headed the Lucknow-based Islamic University Nadwa-tul Ulema Darul-Uloom.

According to an affidavit filed along with the nomination papers, Sonia Gandhi owns neither a house or a car in India but she has an ancestral family home in Italy, the country of her birth.

Sonia Gandhi’s assets, according to the affidavit, totalled Rs.13.8 million (Rs.1.38 crore), nearly Rs.10 million less than what her son Rahul Gandhi reportedly has.

She has Rs.75,000 in cash and Rs.2.86 million (Rs.28.61 lakh) in bank deposits. She also owns mutual funds worth about Rs.2 million (Rs.20 lakh) and Rs.1.2 million (Rs.12 lakh) in government bonds.

A sum of Rs.199,000 was deposited in post offices and Rs.2.49 million (Rs.24.88 lakh) with the Public Provident Fund.

Sonia Gandhi’s jewellery, weighing about 2.5 kg, was valued at Rs.1.1 million (Rs.11 lakh) while 88 kg of silver possessed by her was stated to be worth about Rs.1.8 million (Rs.18 lakh).

She owns two plots of farm land totalling up to about 15 bighas and valued at Rs.219,000. Their location is not mentioned in the affidavit.

Before flying off to New Delhi from Lucknow, she stopped near Mohanlalganj to give a brief pep talk to party workers for about 15 minutes.

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