The Nehru-Gandhi family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh is on the brink of a queen-size electoral battle in which two residents of Bhupati Bhavan, the royal home of its erstwhile ruling family, are set to be pitted against each other.
Garima Singh, the estranged 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 Singh is the scion of the royal family here and known popularly as the Raja of Amethi.
Sanjay Singh’s wife ‘Rani’ Amita Singh is set to file her nomination as a Congress candidate from the same seat on Thursday.
Garima Singh, 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.
But, she has remained away from the public glare. Her silence appears to be working as her main strength now.
“We look towards the ‘royal palace’ for directions on important issues. As two ‘ranis’ will contest the poll against each other, it’s going to be a difficult situation for all of us. We know Rani Garima Singh is fighting for her rights in the palace. So, she has a lot of public sympathy,” a fruit vendor, who did not want to be named, said.
Amita Singh, 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 Singh may have to counter the sympathy that Garima Singh may generate in her favour during the campaign.
“All our relatives are reaching Amethi to join 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 Singh’s son and BJP leader Anant Vikram Singh said.
If Amita Singh fights the poll against Prajapati, the division of votes may work in favour of her adversaries.
“Any alliance may work on 402 out of 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh. But, in Amethi, the people decide votes on the basis of the candidate. The SP’s votes will not be transferred to the Congress if the party gets to contest the seat. The Congress voters will not be transferred to the SP if Prajapati contests the poll as a candidate of the alliance,” Sadashiv Pandey, an Amethi-based lawyer, said.
“Infighting is being witnessed in the Amethi royal house now. But Rani Garima Singh is contesting the election for the first time and this may work to her advantage,” he added.
Sanjay Singh and Amita Singh were not available for comment.
Polling will be held in seven phases in the state on February 11, 15, 19, 23, 27 and March 4 and 8 and the votes will be counted on March 11.