New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi is all set to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Kerala’s Wayanad constituency, besides his existing seat and Gandhi family pocket-borough Amethi.
Making the announcement Sunday, senior Congress leader A.K. Antony said, “I am happy to announce that Rahul Gandhi has given consent and he will contest from Wayanad parliamentary constituency, Kerala.”
In Amethi, Gandhi is pitted against Union Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Smriti Irani, who put up a spirited fight against him in 2014, bringing down his victory margin from well over 3 lakh in 2009 to a little over 1 lakh votes.
Also read: Amethi set for a stiff contest with Irani in fray, Congress looks for safer 2nd seat for Rahul
Dismissing speculation that Gandhi was worried about losing Amethi or was neglecting it, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said Amethi was the “karm bhoomi” of the Congress president and he will never desert it.
Besides Antony and Surjewala, senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and K.C. Venugopal were also present during the announcement.
The Congress claims it is the voters and party workers in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala who wanted Gandhi to contest from the southern region.
Recently, a number of Congress leaders from Kerala indicated that Gandhi had agreed to contest from Wayanad but the party maintained that a final decision would be taken by the leadership.
The Wayanad constituency, created in 2008 during the re-mapping of Lok Sabha seats, has been carved out of Kannur, Malappuram and Wayanad constituencies. It is considered a Congress stronghold — party leader M. I. Shanavas won the last two elections from here. Shanavas died last year.
The Congress picked Wayanad as Gandhi’s second seat as it falls at the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, adjoining the Mysore and Nilgiris Lok Sabha seats.
Apart from the Kerala unit, the Karnataka state Congress, including former chief minister Siddaramaiah and state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao, had also requested Gandhi to contest from the state.
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram had urged Gandhi to contest from Tamil Nadu.
The challenge in Amethi
Amethi, meanwhile, has been becoming increasingly tough for Gandhi, reflected in 2014’s reduced margin. Irani has been visiting the constituency regularly since 2014, taking Gandhi head-on and accusing him of using it as a vote bank, while not working for its development.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also addressed a rally in Amethi recently, and hit out at the Congress for not doing enough.
The Congress, however, is not just worried about Gandhi’s diminishing victory margins. Things went pear-shaped for the party in the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh as the BJP won four out of the five assembly seats under the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency. The one seat it lost out — Gauriganj — went to the Samajwadi Party.
Congress is aware of the stiff competition, and general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh east, Priyanka Gandhi, is likely to start her second leg of campaigning from Amethi, Rai Bareli and Ayodhya after 26 March.
The seat is historically considered to be a Gandhi bastion and a number of family members have contested from here.
Also read: Rivals ridicule Rahul Gandhi with a ‘Made in Amethi’ website
‘Will tell voters he got scared’
Meanwhile, the ruling BJP feels Gandhi’s candidature from two seats gives it that “extra ammunition to target him”, claiming he is scared of losing Amethi.
“We had already started preparing our strategy for Rahul contesting from a second seat. This gives us that extra ammunition to target him,” said a well-placed source in the party who did not wish to be identified.
“We will tell voters he got scared and, hence, found a second seat. In fact, the PM himself will take this up in rallies,” the source added.
In the past, a number of BJP leaders have criticised the Congress president for neglecting Amethi and for the lack of development there, despite it being a ‘VIP seat’.
With inputs from Ruhi Tewari
Never mind spin masters like Surjewala and the Gandhis themselves, this move, particularly the dilly dallying after the kite flying hint a week ago, clearly points to one thing ONLY: that, Congress, and their scion, are REALLY SCARED now of a NEGATIVE Amethi outcome. Perhaps, even certain. Amethi voters will be told that immediately after winning both, he will vacate it for Priyanka. That is NOT going to happen. He will lose Amethi, AND, could very well lose Wayanad too, if Pinarayi and Karat are true to their words. GOOD for the country, though. (Is that why Priyanka’s name is already being floated for Varanasi? So that she may also choose some other “SAFE SEAT” at the last minute). “Yeh paintre bahut purane ho chuke hain”, (to quote Vinod Khanna from Amar Akbar Anthony).
This is analogous to PM contesting from Vadodara as well. 2. If the Congress is not confident of Amethi, that gives a sense of its strength in Uttar Pradesh. Makes its current trajectory of Ekla Cholbo Re even less credible. In the process, it is being a little unfair to Ms Priyanka Gandhi as well. 3. On a lighter note, it may now be the turn of God’s Own Country to give India its next Prime Minister.
Amethi and Raebareli were neglected by the congress for decades. Modi has changed the minds of the suffering public under the congress neglect and made them realise that there is an alternative available to them for their betterment. That Rahul fears that Amethi is not safe is shameful for him. Finding an alternative in waynad, Kerala tantamount to a suicide for Rahul. If he loses in Amethi which may happen in 2019 it proves that congress is winding up. Before that National Herald case is also catching up and Kapil Sibal was frantically trying to delay the final hearing and succeeded getting the case posted to 23rd April. Rahul for now survives the ignominy of losing nomination due to an imminent conviction. End game for Rahul before a checkmate.
Comments are closed.