Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who is pitted against BJP leader Smriti Irani in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, is facing a tough challenge from many of his party's turncoats who have joined UP's ruling BJP in the last few years.Besides the Congress leaders, those from the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party who have also switched to the saffron party in last few years are providing bitter competition to Gandhi on his home turf.Gandhi, who has been representing the Amethi parliamentary constituency since 2004 has remained undefeated in last three elections.In the 2014 elections, Gandhi secured over four lakh votes in Amethi while Irani fetched over three lakh votes.However, in the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP won four out of the five assembly seats in Amethi.Krishna Kumar Tiwari, a local BJP leader, told IANS that several factors are going to hurt Gandhi this year."Many Congress loyalists have joined our party in last five years, making a huge dent in Congress votes," Tiwari said.He said that from Salon assembly constituency, the Congress's forward face and former MLC Dinesh Kumar Singh has switched sides to the BJP.Shiv Balak Pasi of the Congress had also joined the BJP. And after his death, his wife Kamla Devi has also joined the BJP.Chandra Prakash Mishra, formerly of the BSP, who contested against Gandhi in 2004 and got close of 1 lakh votes, has now joined the BJP
.Krishna Kumar Tiwari said Mishra's joining has given the BJP an edge as he would bring the votes of the OBCs and the backwards to the BJP.He said that Dalits and OBCs constitute about 58 per cent of the total population.Thakurs and Brahmins constitute over 26 per cent and Muslims for over 16 per cent.Others who have joined the BJP in the past five years include Jang Bahadur Singh (Congress), Dhiru Tripathi (Congress and then SP), ex-Samajwadi Party MLA Gajadhar Singh, former Congress and BSP leader Ashish Tripathi, SP leader Rajesh Masala and ex BSP leader Sriram Krantikari.Tiwari said that this is the first election after the 2014 when people of Amethi will judge Rahul Gandhi purely as an MP, because his Congress party was in power at the Centre from 2004 to 2014.Rakesh Singh, another BJP leader, said that the Congress as an organisation is very weak in Amethi as compared to the BJP.Pointing to the results of the 2017 assembly elections, he said: "And all the four party MLAs are going to add more voters to the BJP to support Didi's (Irani's) candidature." The BJP had also won three out of the four nagar palika and nagar panchayat polls since 2014.Other locals in Amethi and Musafirkhana said that no doubt it is advantage BJP but many people here will still vote for Gandhi as his father Rajiv Gandhi, when he was the Prime Minister, "did a lot of work for us".The seven-phased Lok Sabha elections are scheduled from April 11 to May 19. Amethi will vote on May 6. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.