Just ahead of the UP 2022 Assembly Polls, Aditi Singh, rebel Congress MLA from Raebareli Sadar seat in Uttar Pradesh, along with former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Bandana Singh, on Wednesday (24 November), were inducted into the Bharatiya Janata Party by UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh at the party office in Lucknow.
The BJP, with these two faces, is aiming to make deep inroads in Raebareli (a Congress stronghold) and Azamgarh (where the BJP hasn’t gained much in the recent past).
Speaking on the occasion, UP BJP chief said, "One of the leaders joining the BJP [Bandana Singh] today will give a fight to Akhilesh-Dimple [Akhilesh Yadav, Dimple Yadav] in Azamgarh and the other [Aditi Singh] will challenge Sonia-Priyanka [Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra]."
Who is Aditi Singh?
Aditi Singh, elected MLA on Congress ticket in 2017, has been at loggerheads with the Congress leadership since October 2019. She has voiced her support for the BJP government on numerous occasions - be it the revocation of Article-370 from Jammu and Kashmir, the Ram Mandir issue, or the farm laws.
Recently, Aditi publicly criticised Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi for unnecessarily “politicising” issues of national interest.
Singh is the daughter of local strongman late Akhilesh Singh, a five-time MLA from Raebareli Sadar seat. Aditi is a management post-graduate from Duquesne University, Pennsylvania, USA. She did her schooling from a boarding school in Mussoorie and later shifted to Delhi for her under-graduation.
In 2017, when she contested elections for the first time, she had returned to India from the US just three years before, i.e. in 2014. While her entry into electoral politics was planned for a later date, most likely in 2021-22, her father’s fast deteriorating health left Aditi with no choice but to contest the UP assembly elections from her father’s seat.
In an interview, Aditi Singh had said that her father, Akhilesh Singh, always inspired her to join politics. She said that politics was her first choice and she wanted to come 100 per cent in this field.
Aditi Singh is married to Angad Singh, the current Congress MLA from the Nawan Shahr seat of Punjab. As Aditi has now defected to the BJP, it is likely that it could put Angad Singh in an uncomfortable situation.
Father-Daughter’s Love-Hate Relationship With The Congress
Aditi's father held the Rae Bareli Sadar seat from 1993 to 2017, i.e. for nearly 25 years. He first contested the election as a Congress candidate and secured victory. Given that Akhilesh Singh was accused in many criminal cases, the Congress soon started distancing itself from the Bahubali leader. Thereafter he continued to contest elections as an independent candidate and continued his winning streak even from jail.
Akhilesh remained out of Congress for over 13 years, and during that period, he continuously criticised the Congress leadership. Keeping in view his deteriorating health, Akhilesh realised that his 'old home' Congress would be the best fit for his daughter’s entry into the political arena. Since her father’s demise in 2019, Aditi's inclination towards the BJP increased and she started envisioning her future in the BJP.
Aditi was once considered a close confidant of Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. As Priyanka used to oversee her mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi's Lok Sabha constituency Raebareli, it is in this regard that the two developed a cordial relationship. But over time, disagreements on various issues with the Congress leadership led Singh to distance herself from the party, and become a staunch critic of Priyanka.
In 2019, Aditi defied her party’s whip to attend a special assembly session called by the Yogi Adityanath government. She has also voted in favour of the BJP government’s policies on more than one occasion.
It is noteworthy that earlier this year, Aditi did give a hefty donation for the construction of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya, following which CM Adityanth congratulated her during an assembly session. In view of her anti-party activities, the Congress then wrote to the speaker seeking her disqualification, though it didn’t happen.
As per sources, though Congress has already suspended her, the party has been reluctant to take official action against Singh because of her family’s stronghold in the Congress bastion.
What does Aditi’s induction into the BJP mean?
It must be noted that Raebareli is a Congress stronghold and it has voted for the party in every Lok Sabha election since 1980, with the exception of BJP’s Ashok Singh’s election in 1996 and 1998. As Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the current MP from Raebareli Lok Sabha seat, many say that Akhilesh Singh had an important role in securing her victory.
Given the strong foothold of Aditi Singh’s family in the region for almost three decades, it is believed that it is the family that wins, and not the party. Thus, with the defection of Aditi Singh to the BJP, the Congress will feel a loose end in its traditional stronghold as it won’t be easy for the party to find Aditi’s replacement.
On the other hand, the BJP, which has limited influence in the region, will try to cash on Singh’s popularity and her father’s legacy to breach Congress’s fortress after decades.
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