The 100-metre walk of Amethi’s MP-elect Smriti Irani carrying the bier of former village head and her campaigner Surendra Singh has won her admirers in Amethi and outside.
A woman carrying a bier is an unusual sight, more so in rural Uttar Pradesh, where her gesture was interpreted as an “emotional commitment” towards her people.
Singh was shot dead by unidentified assailants during the early hours of Sunday.
Irani stayed in the village till the last rites were performed, and before leaving for Delhi, she assured the villagers that she would do whatever it takes to track down the culprits and bring them to justice.
“I have taken an oath before Surendra Singh ji’s family -- the one who fired and the one who ordered it -- even if I have to go to Supreme Court to get the culprits a death sentence, we will knock the doors of the court,” she said.
She also took a veiled dig at Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his congratulatory message.
“On May 23, I got a political message publicly -- Amethi ko pyar se sambhalna (please take care of Amethi with love). I want to tell the person who sent this message that I have received the message loud and clear,” she said.
She also urged BJP workers to act with restraint while warning that this killing was an attempt to terrorise Amethi.
For the villagers, Irani’s 60-minute air dash to Lucknow followed by a three-hour road ride to Baraulia village where she spent about two hours consoling the bereaved family and carrying the bier, was the message that she would stand by them through thick and thin.
While on way to Amethi, she had spoken to many ministers of the Yogi Adityanath government who rushed to Amethi even as chief minister Yogi Adityanath set a 12-hour deadline for the police to crack the case.
Aarti Bajpai, a resident of Gauriganj, said over the phone: “The BJP had raised the slogan ‘abki baar, didi hamaar’ (this time, it’s our sister’s turn) to convince many of us into voting the Congress out. It has been just three days since she won after the May 23 counting and already she has shown how she intends to stand with the people.”
“BJP workers and people of Amethi can be sure that his killer will be found out even from beneath the earth,” Irani said.
Her arrival led to a huge build up, with residents of several villages arriving in Baraulia for the last rites of Surendra Singh, whose relatives claim he had an altercation with some Congress supporters.
“Some local politicians had to be administered first aid after they fainted due to heat and overcrowding but Smriti ji didn’t rest even for a moment,” said Kalpana Kithaur, a social worker who had come to Baraulia from Haliyapur.
“Usually leaders turn up during elections. At least this gesture by the new MP is an indication that she won’t neglect her people as was the case earlier,” said Keshav, a local RSS functionary.
For five years, since she lost to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Irani’s campaign to wrest Amethi from him revolved around the alleged neglect of the constituency by Congress, terming Gandhi as the ‘missing MP’.
Meanwhile, other BJP leaders also stepped up veiled attack on the Congress saying the killing of the influential three-term gram pradhan would not go unnoticed and the guilty would be punished.
Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said, “He was a hard worker. Even if his killers are hiding below the ground, they will be caught.”
Newly-elected BJP MP from Allahabad Lok Sabha seat Rita Bahuguna Joshi said, “I am not saying that Rahul ji is involved in this but if such an incident has taken place a strong message needs to go.”
MP-elect from Agra SPS Baghel said, “We will leave no stone unturned to find out the assailants but I must say such a dastardly act hours after the BJP triumph in Amethi is serious,” he said.
Congress MLC Deepak Singh said, “As far as I know Surendra Singh had no political rivals. I would want on behalf of my party that the police works out the case at the earliest.”
UP minister Mohsin Raza said the state government would ensure stringent punishment for the assailants of BJP MP Smriti Irani’s aide in Amethi so that no one dared to target party workers in future.