Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad. So is Rahul Gandhi K E. And Raghul Gandhi K. When the Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala goes to polls on April 23, the Congress president will find himself pitted against not just political rivals, but also namesakes, both of whom come from families of staunch Congress supporters.
Hours after the Congress chief filed his nomination papers before the returning officer in Wayanad on Thursday, Rahul Gandhi K E (33) submitted his nomination as an independent candidate. A resident of Erumeli village in Kottayam, Rahul Gandhi K E is a research scholar on folk music. His younger brother’s name is Rajiv Gandhi K E.
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Their father, the late Kunjumon, a driver, was a Congressman and a fan of the Gandhi family. While Rahul Gandhi K E switched off his phone after filing the nomination, his brother refused to speak.
Local panchayat member Prakash Pulikkal said Kunjumon was a Congress worker and hence named his sons Rahul and Rajiv. “The sons have no links to the Congress, but Rajiv is a CPM follower. Their mother Valsamma is a daily worker. I think he has not consulted anyone at home. Everyone in their locality was surprised to hear about the candidature,” Pulikkal said.
The second Gandhi to take on the Congress president is Raghul Gandhi K, who hails from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. The 30-year-old is contesting as a candidate of the Agila India Makkal Kazhagam.
“My father Krishnan P was a local Congress leader, who later switched to AIADMK. During his Congress days, I was born and was named as Raghul Gandhi K. My sister was then named Indira Priyadarshini. Today that name given by my father has helped me take on the Congress president,” Raghul said.
He said the contest in Wayanad was his third attempt in electoral politics — in 2016, he contested from Singanallur constituency in Coimbatore during the Tamil Nadu assembly elections; and in 2014, he contested for the Coimbatore civic body elections.
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There’s also a fourth Gandhi in the race — K M Sivaprasad Gandhi, a 40-year-old Sanskrit teacher from a Thrissur school.
“I am contesting as a candidate of the Indian Gandhian Party (an unrecognised party in Kerala). My father K K Mukundan had been a Congress worker, but the Gandhi in my name has nothing to do with father’s politics. Three years ago, I joined the Indian Gandhian Party and decided to add the surname Gandhi. I had notified the change of the name in the gazette,” he said. “Our political agenda is to make all villages self-reliant. In the last 10 years, I have tried to meet Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi to submit our vision on development, but have not got the chance.”
With namesake candidates often being fielded to hurt the chances of mainstream candidates by confusing voters, the Election Commission has introduced candidates’ photographs on EVMs for the first time this election.
In Kerala, there have been instances of candidates scouting for namesakes of their rivals to file the nomination. The namesakes would then go into hiding as the polling date approached.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran lost by 1,009 votes from Alappuzha when another candidate, V S Sudheeran, managed to get 8,282 votes.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, four namesakes proved to be too many for the CPM’s A Muhammed Riyas in Kozhikode. Between them, they bagged 4,000 votes, allowing the Congress candidate to scrape through by 800 votes.