After much consultation, Congress party announced that party president Rahul Gandhi has chosen another seat to contest Lok Sabha 2019 apart from Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi. Rahul Gandhi’s decision to chose Wayanad as a parliamentary constituency has raised the hopes of Congress party to once again establish itself in the southern part of the nation.
Senior Congress leader AK Antony on Sunday that Besides Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi will also contest in a second seat from north Kerala’s Wayanad. The decision has been taken after a week of rigorous consultations and meetings amongst the Congress leaders.
“All southern states have requested the Congress president to contest from their states. After enough deliberations he has decided to contest from Wayanad, which shares its borders with two other states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” said Antony while announcing Rahul’s candidature from Wayanad.
After former chief minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala hinted about Rahul Gandhi’s possible candidature from the Karnataka seat, it was believed that Rahul Gandhi has taken a turn to the south to mark a difference in southern politics.
After the announcement, DCC president IC Balakrishnan said, “It is an honour for the state. We will ensure a record margin to him”. PCC president Mullapally Ramachandran, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and former CM Oommen Chandy said it was a big honour for their state.
“Come here only for filing nominations. Rest is assured. Your presence will be needed in other parts of the country. It is our duty to ensure a historic win from Kerala,” read a poster that appeared in Kalpetta, the headquarters of the hilly district.
Why Rahul Gandhi chose Wayanad?
Amidst this announcement, there’s a question for which everyone wants to know the answer that why Wayanad only?
With the Congress Lok Sabha numbers sufficiently low in 2014 which is even well below even the 1998 tally, it is understandable that party wants to revive from both the North and the South to achieve respectable digits.
With this template in mind, Congress state units in Kerala and Karnataka invited Rahul Gandhi to contest from there. Clearly, he chose Wayanad. Here’s why it’s a good decision.
1.In Kerala, where the Congress has a strong base, Rahul Gandhi is a popular face among the masses. In a recent study for the state, 38 per cent of the Keralites chose Rahul Gandhi and per cent picked Narendra Modi as their choice of PM. Needless to say, Gandhi has an advantage over Modi as he hits the electoral battlefield in Wayanad.
2.Also unlike other seats in Kerala, where the Congress has established leaders like Shashi Tharoor who enjoys a huge fan base in his Lok Sabha constituency Thiruvananthapuram, there was a political vacuum in Wayanad. In 2014 and 2009, the seat was won by veteran Congress leader MI Shanavas, who passed away in November 2018. The Congress initially nominated youth leader T Siddique, who expressed his willingness to step aside and invited Gandhi to contest from the seat.
3.As far as the demography of the district is concerned, Muslims account for over 45 per cent of the electorate in Wayanad, tribals account for close to 10 per cent of the population, and Christians another 10 per cent. By contesting from the seat, Rahul Gandhi would try to sweep with the anti-Hindutva wave in the state.
The seat is spread across three districts – it has three segments from Wayanad district, three from Malappuram district and one from Kozhikode district. With an overwhelmingly Muslim population, the Indian Union Muslim League enjoys considerable influence in the area and Rahul Gandhi’s election from there is also his way to strengthen with the Congress’ oldest ally.
4.Kerala is one of the few states the Congress expects to sweep in the Lok Sabha elections. However, the state Congress unit is threatened by factionalism which would harm Congress’ prospects in the state. The Congress in Kerala is bitterly divided between the Congress (A) and Congress (I) groups headed by former chief minister Oommen Chandy and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala respectively.
But with Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad and making regular public rallies and meetings the two groups will be forced to work together. This is likely to help the UDF’s prospects in the state.
There’s another aspect as far as the state is concerned. Despite being one of the few states where the Congress still has strong machinery, there is a perception that the state seldom gets its importance in the party’s national programmes and meet-ups.
5.Southern India has always perceived a notion that politics of north is a threat to India’s nationalism. And thus, Gandhi’s lead over Modi in the South isn’t just due to a personality contest. And within Kerala, Wayanad was the most appropriate seat as it shares a border with both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Being the bordering district, it is perhaps the only seat in Kerala that can have some kind of spillover effect on the two neighbouring states
By contesting from Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi is clearly sending the message that he stands with the South against any possible assertion from the Centre.
Therefore, Kerala was the only realistic option.
Taking a jibe at the decision, BJP leaders have said in unison that Rahul Gandhi is now afraid that he might lose from Amethi against BJP’s strong candidate Smriti Irani.
Amit Shah, BJP’s president said today that “I read on WhatsApp that Rahul Gandhi has run towards Kerala, leaving Amethi behind. Why has he escaped to Kerala? All of you know that this time Rahul Gandhi is done in Amethi. So he is going to Kerala in a bid to win on the politics of polarisation”.
Well, the ruling party clearly visualises it as a threat, the Congress has affirmed that party wants to keep a pace with southern politics ans hopes to win by a huge margin in the southern states.