Putting speculations to rest, the Congress Sunday announced that party president Rahul Gandhi will be contesting from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat in Kerala in addition to his Amethi constituency. Addressing a press conference on Sunday, senior Congress leader A K Antony said, “Rahul ji has given his consent to contest from two seats, very happy to inform you that he will also contest from Wayanad in Kerala.”
“This is a message to the southern states that they are deeply valued and respected. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has said that he will represent Amethi but will also represent southern states as they are an important part of India’s way of life,” PTI quoted Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala as saying.
When asked if Gandhi was not confident on winning the Amethi seat this time, Surjewala said, “Why did Modi ji leave Gujarat and contest from Varanasi? Was he not confident in Gujarat? These are immature and childish comments. She (Smriti Irani) will complete a hat-trick of losses.”
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Wayanad, a constituency in north Kerala, was formed post delimitation in 2009. It has a large tribal population and is touted to be a safe seat for the Congress. In the two Lok Sabha elections that the seat has seen so far, MI Shanavas, who passed away last year, won both times for the Congress even though his margin of victory came down drastically in 2014.
Rumours were rife that Gandhi may eventually choose a second seat in Karnataka where the party’s alliance with the JD(S) is seen to pose a stiff challenge to the BJP. But he chose to fight from Wayanad on the Kerala Congress’ request.
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Congress’ move to make Rahul contest from Wayanad highlights the party’s efforts to portray Rahul as a pan-India leader who enjoys public support from all communities in India. The move is also significant as the LDF, not the BJP, is the direct competition to the Congress in the state, and Rahul’s rhetorics would have to differ from the ones he trades at PM Narendra Modi and the saffron party.
Kerala CM P Vijayan called Rahul’s candidature from Wayanad as a fight against the Left. “He’s fighting in one of the 20 constituencies and doesn’t need to be seen as any different. We will fight him. He should have contested from a constituency where BJP is contesting, it’s nothing but a fight against Left,” ANI quoted him as saying.
BJP Kerala president PS Sreedharan Pillai said the party will carry out a strong campaign against Gandhi in Wayanad. “We will carry out a strong campaign against Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad. We will speak with the central leadership and BDJS on the candidate in changed scenario,” he said.
CPI’s P P Suneer is the LDF’s candidate while the BDJS, the BJP’s ally in the state, has announced Paily Vathiattu as its candidate from the seat.
Wayanad will go to polls on April 23 during the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections. Amethi will cast its vote on May 6 during the fifth phase.