Considered a 'lightweight' against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in this Nehru-Gandhi family bastion, BJP candidate Ajay Agrawal, a lawyer by profession, is banking on what he calls a 'Modi storm and not wave' here to see him through.
A Supreme Court lawyer, who had pursued the Bofors scam besides many other high-profile cases, Agrawal is undeterred by the fact that no Nehru-Gandhi family member has ever lost from here except after Emergency in 1977, when Indira Gandhi was defeated by Raj Narain of Janata Party.
Sonia has won the seat thrice in 2004, 2006 (by-election) and 2009 and her votes have increased every time. In 2009, she defeated the BSP's RS Kushwaha by a massive margin of 3.72 lakh votes. The BJP's RB Singh was third with only 25,444 votes.
"Times have changed," he says and ignores frequent barbs from Congress' star campaigner in the constituency Priyanka Gandhi, who says in her public meetings that neither she nor the voters know who the other candidates here are.
This is the first time that Agrawal, who is known for filing PILs and also arguing them in courts, is contesting any assembly or Lok Sabha election.
'There may be a Modi wave in the country but here in Rae Bareli, there is a Modi storm. It is because the people have remained unemployed. There is total unemployment in villages here. Youths have gone to Gujarat, got employment there and earned good salaries. They send half of their earnings to families here,' he claims in an interview.
'So the people here, their family members are also happy. This has spread all over Rae Bareli. Everybody wants that Modi should become the prime minister so that their living standards develop,' he further says.
Agrawal is also roping in senior leaders like former chief ministers Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh to address rallies here. The Lodh community has a sizable presence in some pockets of the constituency.
There was speculation that BJP would field its firebrand leader Uma Bharti from Rae Bareli but she had preferred Jhansi seat. Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Archana Srivastava, a social worker, from the seat after its earlier choice, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin, the former Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh High Court judge, withdrew from the fray. BSP has fielded Pravesh Singh.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, which won four of the five Assembly seats in Rae Bareli in the 2012 Assembly elections, has not fielded any candidate against Gandhi.
Though there are few who doubt that Sonia will retain the seat, Agrawal claims, 'We are going to win this election because there is a Modi storm and also because there is a strong undercurrent against Sonia Gandhi due to the apathy shown towards the people during her tenure.' Agrawal, who has been living in a rented accommodation for the past six months, dismisses the 'outsider' tag and hits back at Sonia.
'Sonia Gandhi has no assets here. She is not a resident of Rae Bareli. She does not even have her vote in Rae Bareli. She only has a guest house. She comes only four times in a year, that too for a day. She comes in the morning in a flight or helicopter and then leaves by evening,' he alleges.
According to locals, BJP's organisation has become weak in the region due to successive defeats in the Parliamentary seat, which it had won twice in 1996 and 1998 defeating candidates from Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party.
Agrawal, who is believed to be close to RSS, however, disagrees. 'There is a very good organisational set up. We have youths. The old workers are here. There is a lot of vigour and enthusiasm. They all have come together and have started campaigning vigorously to save the country, to get rid of Sonia Gandhi.'
Congress leader Dinesh Singh dismisses any challenge to Sonia and insists that the Congress president is not fighting against any candidate but against her own victory margin. He exudes confidence that the victory margin will go up.
Responding to the Opposition's attack over alleged lack of basic resources like good roads, power and drinking water in villages of Rae Bareli, Singh says that the Gandhis have focused on long-term goals of development, which will change the shape of the constituency in the time to come.