The fact that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has visited Amethi twice within 48 hours explains that the road ahead for Union Minister and BJP sitting MP Smriti Irani is becoming increasingly rough.

After addressing a rally at Gauriganj on Sunday, Adityanath returned on Tuesday for a second rally at Jagdishpur where he attempted to saffronise the pitch by declaring: “Mujhe kehne mein sankoch nahi hai ke yahan ke log 1-2 joon bhuke reh sakte hain lekin Ram ko nahi bhool sakte. Jo Ram ke nahi vo kisi kaam ke nahi (I am not hesitant to say that people here will remain hungry a few times but wouldn’t forget Ram. Those who don’t belong to Ram are of no use).”

Soon after his fiery speech, Priyanka Gandhi countered Yogi’s narrative at a meeting held at Tiloi in support of the Congress candidate KL Sharma — a long-time Gandhi family associate. She pointed out that at the time of elections please don’t speak of Mandir-Masjid. “At election time you should be asking who is to build roads for us, who will provide employment for my son, who will make my daughter capable, how I will feed my family. This is what you should be asking at the time of election.”

During his address, CM Yogi completely disregarded all development work of Amethi done during the years when the Gandhi family represented it, she emphasised. “PM Modi has changed the face of Varanasi. You had also elected a Prime Minister what did you get in return?” He in turn had promised an industrial estate and medical college in Amethi among many other promises.

Dependra Singh of Jagdishpur, who was present at Yogi’s meeting, noticed the desperation in CM Yogi’s tone. He remembers a time when Amethi was changing from a sleepy town to an industrial hub. He recalls that it was during the time of Rajiv Gandhi that giants like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy came to the constituency.

The three-time MP Rahul Gandhi added many more lucrative projects like Rail Neer plant, Ordnance Factory, Indo Gulf Fertilizer Plant, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Information Technology, Hindustan Paper Mill, Mega Food Park and Footwear Design and Development Institute among many others to the region. Many of these have since been closed down by the BJP government.

Clash of narratives

During her meetings, Priyanka also answered CM Yogi on this count. She recalled her time as a child when she visited Amethi, she used to notice the white fields from the sky which she learnt was usar land (sodic infested). The huge sodic land reclamation projects brought to the area by her father are making agriculture productive once again, she said.

As voting day draws closer, it appears that there is clearly a clash of narratives in Amethi. On one hand, Priyanka Gandhi, the main campaigner for KL Sharma, remains focused on making the voters demand accountability from the present government.

On the other hand, Smriti Irani and the horde of high profile BJP ministers and office bearers criss-crossing Amethi charge Rahul of abandoning Amethi, not doing anything for the place and now appealing for their votes.

(The writer is an independent journalist)