Rahul Gandhi’s day of reckoning in Amethi, losing the Uttar Pradesh seat that has been a family stronghold for four decades, has put another senior Congress leader in a spot.
Back in April, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had vowed to quit politics if Mr Gandhi’s opponent and union minister Smriti Irani managed to trump the Congress chief in the seat.
With Rahul Gandhi’s personal loss headlining the Congress’s colossal defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, Twitter users reminded Mr Sidhu of the promise, making #SidhuQuitPolitics one of the top trends on the social network.
Though he managed to win a ticket to parliament from Kerala’s Wayanad, Congress president Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat in Amethi, a constituency that he has been winning effortlessly since 2004, and congratulated the BJP’s Smriti Irani for her victory yesterday.
“I want Smriti Irani ji to keep people’s faith and take care of Amethi with love,” he told reporters in a brief press conference after the Congress’s massive defeat in the national election.
But losing Amethi is a huge loss of face for the 48-year-old politician, whose leadership of the Congress is also being called to question after the party’s defeat.
Amethi, a dusty, largely rural constituency around 130 km from UP capital Lucknow, has rarely looked beyond the Congress or the Gandhi family since the 1980s. In 2014, Ms Irani had lost to Rahul Gandhi from Amethi but had managed to reduce his winning margin to one lakh.
The Congress has not lost the seat in the last three decades, except in 1998. Amethi, one of the only two Congress seats in 80-seat Uttar Pradesh along with Sonia Gandhi’s Raebareli, is a big acquisition for the BJP.
Navjot Sidhu has also faced flak in his own state after the Congress poor show. His boss, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh — who delivered the party’s only decisive victory in a state, has contacted the senior leadership of the party, seeking a green signal for the cricketer-turned-politician’s removal from government, sources said.
The Congress has won eight of Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats yesterday. Amarinder Singh, however, said the party could have done better in the urban areas of the state, especially Bathinda, if not for Navjot Sidhu’s remarks on Pakistan and the ongoing investigation into the Guru Granth Sahib desecration.
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