Rae Bareli, May 2: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has been projected as 'a leader of sacrifice' and a 'synonym for development' in the May 8 Rae Bareli Lok Sabha byelection.
The byelection has been necessitated after Ms Gandhi resigned her seat following the office of profit controversy. She is now seeking re-election from the high-profile constituency.
Congress campaign is being spearheaded by her son and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi, who has been addressing about two dozen meetings daily since April 25.
Rahul in his brief public address reminds people of their 'old ties' with the Gandhi family and mentions the developmental works done by his mother in the last two yrs in the constituency.
He invariably refers to the ''hostile attitude'' of the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh, which ''has neglected the development of Rae Bareli and non-cooperated with the centre in implementing the centrally proposed schemes.'' In the 16 polls held since 1952 in the Rae Bareli parliamentary constituency -- considered an invincible Congress citadel and a pocket borough of the Gandhi family -- the Opposition has been able to win the seat only thrice, while Congress captured it 13 times.
Janata Party nominee Raj Narain won the seat in 1977 and BJP candidate Ashok Kumar Singh was elected from here twice in 1996 and 1998.
Those who won the seat on Congress ticket included Feroze Gandhi, Baijnath Kuril, Rajendra Pratap Singh, Dinesh Singh, Indira Gandhi, Arun Nehru, Sheila Kaul, Satish Sharma and Sonia Gandhi.
Sonia was elected from here for the first time in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. She had defeated her nearest rival Ashok Kumar Singh of SP by a margin of 2,49,765 votes.
BSP candidate Rajesh Yadav was at number three with 57,543 votes.
BJP nominee Girish Narain Pandey was relegated to the fourth position with 31,290 votes. Apna Dal nominee Indra Pal Singh got only 9,969 votes.
In this byelection, the contestants include the Congress chief, SP nominee Raj Kumar Chaudhary, BJP candidate Vinay Katiyar and Apna Dal candidate and Uma Bharti supported Ms Prabha Singh, Rashtrawadi Janata Party nominee Deepa and Rashtriya Swabhiman Party candidate Ram Lali Verma and 10 independents. In all, there are 16 candidates in fray in this constituency.
Barring BJP candidate Vinay Katiyar, all others in fray against Ms Gandhi, are contesting the LS polls for the first time.
Katiyar won the Faizabad parliamentary seat twice in 1996 and 1999 and lost the polls in 1998 and 2004 from Faizabad and Kheri respsectively. He is also one of the accused in the Ayodhya demolition case, which is being tried by a special CBI court here.
SP nominee Raj Kumar Chaudhari is a political novice and unknown to the Rae Bareli electorate, although his party has pumped all its resources in the campaign. According to party sources, as many as 60 ministers, 40 MLAs, 35 district presidents and 26 MPs are active in the SP nominee's campaign.
The Apna Dal nominee is a housewife of Bulandshahr and is supported by expelled BJP leader Uma Bharti. The 'sadhvi' has already addressed a number of election meetings in her support.
The BJP had fielded party general secretary Vinay Katiyar in the electoral arena.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh and former union minister Sushma Swaraj have already campaigned for Katiyar.
On the other hand, SP MP from Kannauj and son of chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh led a cycle rally, which covered a distance of 40 kms from Ratapur Chauraha to Murai Ka Bagh (Dalmau) in support of the party nominee.
The Congress chief is arriving here tomorrow on a two-day tour of the constituency. All parties have made 'development' their main election plank in the byelection to the Rae Bareli LS seat.