On polling day, Rahul Gandhi missing from Amethi

Amethi: As his constituency Amethi went to the polls on Monday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was conspicuous by his absence, providing a handle to his rival Smriti Irani of the BJP to declare him a “missing MP”.

Gandhi, a sitting member of the Lok Sabha from this high profile constituency of Uttar Pradesh, is seeking re-election for the fourth time.

The constituency, which elected Gandhi in 2004, 2009 and 2014, went to the polls along with 13 others in the state in the fifth phase on Monday.

While balloting was underway in his constituency, Gandhi held a rally in Haryana’s Bhiwani.

On the other hand, Irani, a Union Minister who is making her second bid to wrest from Gandhi his family bastion seat, was active in the constituency through the day.

A Congress member, on condition of anonymity, tried to justify the party President’s absence in his own constituency during polling, saying that before being an MP, he was the chief of the party and his responsibility included major party activities across the country.

Irani called the Congress President “laapata sansad” (missing MP), pointing out that the sitting MP did not visit the constituency even on polling day.

She told reporters here that Gandhi had cheated the people of Amethi on election day. “I didn’t know that he (Gandhi) could be so arrogant that he won’t turn up in Amethi even on the polling day.”

She also alleged booth capturing in her constituency.

Gandhi and Irani are locked in a direct contest as the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance did not field their candidate from Amethi.

Gandhi is also contesting from Kerala’s Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, which went to the polls in the third phase on April 23.

Amethi, a Gandhi family stronghold, witnessed one of the most high-profile contests in 2014 when Gandhi defeated Irani by more than one lakh votes. The Congress President has retained the seat ever since his mother Sonia Gandhi vacated it for him in 2004.