Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad: Key questions
The Congress President will be standing from the constituency along with Amethi for the general elections.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on March 31 decided to contest from two seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Apart from contesting from the Gandhi family stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, he will also contest from Wayanad in Kerala. The announcement was made by senior Congress leader AK Antony.
This the first time Rahul Gandhi will be contesting from two seats. The practice is not new with a lot of leaders across political parties doing the same thing over the years. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood from two constituencies for the 2014 general elections, Varanasi and Vadodara.
He is also not the first Gandhi to do so. His mother and Congress leader, Sonia Gandhi, stood from Amethi and Bellary in Karnataka for the 1999 general elections. She had defeated BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj in Bellary on that occasion. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi also contested from two seats for the 1980 general elections, from Raebareli in UP and Medak in then undivided Andhra Pradesh.
However, considering the political lay of the land in the run up to elections, this move by Congress and Rahul has raised some questions. They are:
Is the Congress afraid that Rahul will lose from Amethi?
It is not a secret that the Congress is no longer a dominant player in Uttar Pradesh politics. Regional parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party dominate the political discourse in the state. This is also reflected at the national level. However, there seems to be a tacit understanding between these parties and the Congress. They have not fielded candidates in these two constituencies.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to change that. Modi spectacularly captured the public imagination in the state in 2014, and the BJP won 71 of the 80 seats on offer. They put in place an aggressive campaign against Rahul and pitted him against a spirited Smriti Irani. While Irani lost the election, she managed to garner nearly 37 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rahul’s vote share fell from nearly 72 per cent to 47 percent.
The BJP has since built on their 2014 performance by sweeping the state election in 2017, with their alliance winning 325 seats out of 403 seats. While there a formidable SP-BSP-RLD alliance against the BJP this time, the Congress has been left out of it.
Why Wayanad and what are the implications of contesting from there?
Wayanad is considered a safe seat by the Congress, having been represented by the party in the last two Lok Sabhas. So, there is a good chance that Rahul will win from the seat. Apart from this, it could also be an attempt by the Congress to project itself as a ‘pan’ India party. It is not a secret that the BJP aggressive nationalist rhetoric has alienated large parts of southern India, particularly Tamil Nadu and Kerala. By contesting from Wayanad, Rahul and the Congress could be trying to shape that narrative.
This has credence, as one of the moments when the north-south divide was keenly felt was during the Kerala floods of 2018. The parliamentary constituency covers areas most affected by that tragedy. The Centre’s response to that event was heavily criticised with allegations of an anti-Kerala bias. Thus by contesting from there, Rahul could be trying to project Congress as an ‘anti-thesis’ of BJP.