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Rahul fighting from Rae Bareli boost for INDIA bloc in UP, BJP heading for 'huge setback' in state: Pilot

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Rae Bareli, May 14 (PTI) Rahul Gandhi contesting from Rae Bareli has come as a boost for the INDIA bloc in Uttar Pradesh and the BJP is "heading for a huge setback" in the politically-crucial state, senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot claimed on Tuesday.

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In an interview with PTI, the Congress general secretary also claimed that Gandhi will win here by a record margin which would be the highest ever.

While former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting against BJP's Dinesh Pratap Singh in Rae Bareli, Gandhi family aide Kishori Lal Sharma is taking on BJP's Smriti Irani in Amethi.

Pilot, who is here to campaign for Gandhi, said the two Lok Sabha seats of Amethi and Raebareli are different as the electorate is very pro-Congress and no matter who the BJP fields, the Congress would win both the seats by a "huge margin".

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"In Raebareli, we are campaigning today, we will have a record-breaking mandate for Mr. (Rahul) Gandhi. I can see the sentiment, people across communities across castes (will vote for us)," Pilot said.

He said in the adjoining Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress has fielded a grassroots worker, Sharma, who has worked in the area for over 40 years.

"I think he will be able to deliver the seat for the Congress party. Rahul ji contesting from Rae Bareli is not only helping the party, it is helping the INDIA bloc also. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state and here also, the BJP will be on the back foot because they had a good majority last time," Pilot said.

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With Rahul Gandhi contesting from here, the change people want to see will be there in UP, he said.

"The BJP is heading for a huge setback in Uttar Pradesh also," Pilot claimed.

Asked about the BJP's charge that Gandhi "ran away" from Amethi fearing defeat, Pilot said the former Congress president had been at the forefront of taking on this government in the last 10 years from day one, be it inside Parliament or outside.

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"He (Gandhi) has not left a single issue and in fact it is he who has led the charge from the front. That is why the BJP is forced to respond to his attack on them on corruption, favouritism, crony capitalism, black money," the Congress leader said.

Gandhi has taken the government head on and the BJP and the government of India had to respond because he is the one who has fearlessly fought this battle for the opposition from day one till today, Pilot asserted.

On BJP candidate from Rae Bareli Singh's "peon" and "clerk" jibe at Sharma, the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister said this name-calling is not appropriate in a democracy as one should fight elections on issues, respect ones opponents and let the better person win.

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"It reflects the mindset, this name calling, these accusations, these allegations, this undignified language being used. I think it is reflective of the mindset the person represents. I will say no further. I say this election should be conducted fair and square and the Election Commission should take special precautions and ensure everyone has level playing field and may the better party win," Pilot said.

"But I can tell you, this time the Rae Bareli parliamentary seat is heading for a record and Mr Rahul Gandhi will win by the highest margin ever," he claimed.

Amethi and Rae Bareli have long been synonymous with the Gandhis but it is the first time in 25 years that a Gandhi family member is not contesting elections from the Amethi Lok Sabha seat.

The Congress fortress of Amethi was breached in the last general election in 2019 when Irani beat Rahul Gandhi by more than 55,000 votes. Sonia Gandhi defeated BJP's Singh by over 1,67,000 votes in Rae Bareli in 2019.

The two constituencies go to polls in the fifth phase of the seven-phase election on May 20. PTI ASK ZMN

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