Rahul's defeat in Gandhi stronghold a coup for BJP

Rahul Gandhi's loss to the BJP's Ms Smriti Irani is a big blow to his stature as leader of the Congress party and the opposition.
Rahul Gandhi's loss to the BJP's Ms Smriti Irani is a big blow to his stature as leader of the Congress party and the opposition.PHOTO: AFP

Mr Rahul Gandhi's shocking defeat in Amethi, which has long been a family borough of the Gandhis, can be described as one of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) most impressive accomplishments in the elections.

His loss to the BJP's Ms Smriti Irani is a big blow to Mr Gandhi's stature as leader of the Congress party and the opposition.

The constituency in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh elected a member of the Gandhi family as its representative to Parliament for 14 of the past 15 elections.

But yesterday, Ms Irani, a federal minister and former television actress, won it by more than 40,000 votes. In 2014, she lost to Mr Gandhi by around 100,000 votes. Since then, she has been visiting the constituency regularly, attacking him relentlessly on a range of issues.

Mr Gandhi has asked Ms Irani to nurture Amethi "with love". He also said it was not the right time to discuss why Congress lost.

"Today is the day that a new prime minister has been elected, and today is the day to wish him the best, and hopefully he will look after the interests of the country," he said.

Mr Gandhi, however, is set to be elected to Parliament from Wayanad, the second seat he contested. He was leading by more than 400,000 votes in this constituency in Kerala last night.

Here are some other key battles India witnessed during what has been one of the country's most polarising general election. Results are as of around 9pm Singapore time.

BEGUSARAI, BIHAR

• Mr Giriraj Singh (BJP) v Mr Kanhaiya Kumar (Communist Party of India) v Mr Tanveer Hasan (Rashtriya Janata Dal)

• Status: Mr Singh has won.

 
 
 

This had been dubbed one of the most closely watched battles, where Mr Kumar, a young leader and former president of a leading university's students' union, was challenging the BJP's dominance. Mr Singh is a federal minister and a BJP veteran.

Mr Kumar was in a three-way fight with the BJP's Mr Singh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal's Mr Hasan. It was in some ways emblematic of the Left's existential battle in India.

Mr Singh won by a margin of 420,000 votes.

EAST DELHI, DELHI

• Mr Gautam Gambhir (BJP) v Ms Atishi (Aam Aadmi Party) v Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely (Congress)

• Status: Mr Gambhir is leading.

For many who wished key issues such as education were prominent in the polls, this had been a key battle to watch. Ms Atishi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate, had been widely lauded for helping improve the standard of education in Delhi's government schools.

But wide support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the appeal of the BJP candidate, former Indian cricket captain Gambhir, put the party in pole position, with a lead of more than 350,000 votes.

The AAP and Congress failed to stitch up a pre-polls alliance, which many said split the anti-BJP vote.

BHOPAL, MADHYA PRADESH

• Ms Pragya Singh Thakur (BJP) v Mr Digvijay Singh (Congress)

• Status: Ms Thakur is leading.

 
 

The recently held parliamentary elections had been defined as a battle for India's identity. It was the contest in Bhopal that perhaps encapsulated this tussle most vividly.

BJP candidate Thakur is a Hindu ascetic who is facing trial on terrorism charges. Yet, she had enjoyed strong support not only because she was chosen by Mr Modi, but also because she stood up to alleged attempts to vilify Hinduism by labelling an ascetic as a terrorist.

If she wins, she will become possibly the first Member of Parliament who faces terrorism charges. She recently even described the killer of Mahatma Gandhi as a patriot.

Ms Thakur is firmly in the lead in Bhopal, with 340,000 votes more than her closest rival.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Rahul's defeat in Gandhi stronghold a coup for BJP'. Print Edition | Subscribe