Rani vs Rani in Amethi assembly seat in UP

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Amethi: It is a Rani vs Rani (queens) of Bhupati Bhawan, the royal family, in Amethi assembly seat, the Nehru-Gandhi bastion in Uttar Pradesh which goes to the polls in the fifth phase on February 27. Though Uttar Pradesh controversial minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, whose name has been involved in illegal mining and now in a rape case, has also thrown his hat in the contest but it could be the two ranis who are making the news. Amethi assembly seat was a traditional Congress hub till 1993 but later it went to the BJP during the Ayodhya movement and in the previous election, SP snatched the seat from Congress. Amethi, which has the highest number of 24 candidates in the fifth phase of elections, has become the prestige of the SP-Congress alliance, as they are contesting a 'friendly' fight but on the other hand were also helping the BJP to consolidate its votes. Garima Singh, the estranged or first wife of Congress’ Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh, is already in the fray as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from the Amethi assembly seat. Sanjay is the scion of the royal family here and known popularly as the Raja of Amethi. Sanjay’s second or present wife ‘Rani’ Amita Singh is in the fray as a Congress candidate from the same seat giving twist in the elections. Amita is a three-time MLA and former minister in the UP government, while Garima, a late debutante, also has politics in her blood. She belongs to the family of former Prime Minister VP Singh, and is a descendant of the royal family of Daiya. Among locals, Garima enjoys considerable sympathy as the 'Rani who was wronged', left by husband Sanjay for Amita in the early 1990s. Garima, who stayed away from Amethi for many years because of her estrangement from her husband, has not spoken much so far. She returned to the palace with her son Anant Vikram Singh and two daughters a few months after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. She has remained away from the public glare. Her silence appears to be working as her main strength now. Amita, who has represented the constituency in the past and lost the 2012 assembly election to UP Minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, has been the people’s link to the royal house over the years with her husband. She has developed a strong network and consistently worked in the constituency. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party are allies, a factor that normally would have worked in her favour. But the battle will not be an easy one as Prajapati is the sitting MLA from the seat and the anti-incumbency factor may be working against him. Besides taking on Prajapati and other candidates, Amita may have to counter the sympathy that Garima may generate in her favour during the campaign. “All our relatives have joined my mother’s campaign but they are not being allowed inside the palace. Anybody entering the palace has to go through many levels of security checks. This is a big hindrance,” Garima's son and BJP leader Anant Vikram Singh said. At her poll rallies, Garima rarely does the talking. Her daughters Mahima and Shaivya, son Anant Vikram, and BJP's local netas take turns to describe her “charitravaan“ (virtuous). Often as the crowd works its way to the front rows for a closer glimpse of the 'original Rani', Garima is happy only to smile; expressing her gratitude and appealing for votes with folded hands. “You're aware of the circumstances we've lived in over the past few years. These forced me to come out. BJP thought I was suitable, and I want to use this opportunity to connect with the people of Amethi, who have wanted to see me for very long," Garima told reporters while campaigning. If Garima has sympathy, Amita, the shuttler of yesteryear is no pushover either. Protecting her husband Sanjay, who has ruled over for 35 years, the present 'rani' has her campaign plans chalked out. "If they have chosen to bring a personal, legal battle into the public domain, and think an electoral battle will help settle it, it's their problem. As far as I am concerned, I tell the people of Amethi they are voting for a legislator; for someone to do their work. A political novice who has remained cloistered within the walls of a palace, and then left town, will not be able to do that," Amita says to the voters. However, Prajapati too says that no one even the Nehru-Gandhi family have done such work in the area like he has done during the past five years. Blaming the opposition and the media for terming him 'criminal and corrupt', Prajapati said these charges were wild and no court has charge sheeted him in any case. SP president Akhilesh Yadav campaigned for the UP Transport Minister while Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi did the same for his candidate Amita. But the absence of SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi in the campaign showed the real face of the alliance mood. Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi too skipped campaigning in Amethi or Rae Bareli this time, sparing the Congress.

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