“If the killers of the former Prime Minister of this country are being released, what kind of justice should the common man expect,” asked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday after the Jayalalithaa government decided to release the seven persons convicted of killing Rajiv Gandhi.
Expressing grief over the development, which took place earlier on the day, Mr. Gandhi called his father a “martyr” but maintained that he was “personally against death penalty”.
"It’s not about my father. I am sad the killers of a PM are being freed," he said during a day-long visit to his constituency Amethi where he addressed a gathering in Jagdishpur.
Mr. Gandhi, who faces the threat of AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, stressed the "close ties" between Amethi and the Gandhi family, a day after Mr. Vishwas evoked his father Rajiv Gandhi to seek local support.
Mr. Gandhi toured villages in his constituency, where he held chaupals and heard the concerns of locals. Mr. Gandhi flayed the UP government for not implementing the Food Security Act in the State, while also blaming the Samajwadi Party for the poor infrastructure, bad roads and power crisis in his constituency. The centre was provided sufficient funds but the State was not doing the necessary work, he said.
The poet-turned-politician has also intensified his campaign against Mr. Gandhi with the launch of a 'Jhaddu Yatra.' In a bid to connect with voters, he has begun a 42-day door-to-door padhyatra across the 1,200 villages of the seat.
Mr. Vishwas is fighting on the issue of “development,” and has promised locals that if elected he will focus on the reopening of closed factories in the rural constituency and direct trains to Allahabad. He has also challenged Mr. Gandhi for an open debate.
Mr. Vishwas is living with the villagers and has given his workers clear instructions to stay in the houses of non-AAP workers, Amethi party convenor Hanuman Singh said.
While the AAP has pitched candidates against some of the political bigwigs it did not name any candidate against Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli. There are speculations that AAP leader Shazia Ilmi, who lost from the RK Puram seat in last year’s Vidhan Sabha elections in Delhi, could be pitted against Ms. Gandhi.
AAP sources, however, said no consensus had been reached.
In Amethi, Mr. Gandhi inaugurated the Rail Neer Plant at Tikaria at Gauriganj, an FM radio station, and nine branches of State Bank of India (SBI) in Mohanganj (Tiloi). The AAP, however, termed his visit as a token visit. Mr. Gandhi also faced minor protests from some youth.