New Delhi: With an eye on sweeping the elections in Kerala, the Congress is likely to field Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad, besides Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. The move is also aimed at containing acute factionalism in the party where the two warring groups, one led by former Chief Minister Oomen Chandy and the other by Ramesh Chennithala have been working at cross purposes. Rahul’s presence in the fray would not only bring about unity in the party, but boost the morale of the workers who are hoping to capture most of the 16 seats the party is contesting out of a total of 20.
Sources said that the delay in announcing the names in four of the 16 Lok Sabha seats was essentially because efforts had been on to persuade Rahul to contest from either Wayanad or Alappuzha (Alleppy). Two party MLAs from the state, V.T. Balram from Thrithale and K.M. Shaji from Azhikode have urged Rahul to contest from Wayanad, earlier represented by M.I. Shah Nawas, who passed away recently. Chandy’s faction has been backing T. Siddique for the party nomination, but would fall in line if Rahul was to be the candidate.
The Congress has also yet to declare the names from Attingal and Vadakora, besides Wayanad and Alappuzha. Congress strategists are of the view that by contesting his second seat from the South, the party may be able to drive home the point that BJP’s presence beyond the Vindhyas was peripheral. It was also an oblique manner of driving home the point that Modi’s influence had not penetrated the southern states and the BJP’s pro Hindi stance made southern leaders suspicious of the party’s intention. In addition to Kerala, the Karnataka unit of the Congress has also been urging Rahul to contest from there.
In the past, the Congress president’s grandmother, Indira Gandhi and mother, Sonia Gandhi, have been elected from the Chikamagalur and Bellary parliamentary constituencies in Karnataka. Therefore, several party loyalists were in favour of Rahul seeking election from the state.
While the BJP is claiming that Rahul was looking for a safe seat from the South since he was unsure of his chances in Amethi, Congress supporters wondered why Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 had contested from Vadodara in Gujarat after filing his nomination from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh if he was so confident of victory. “Rahul will win from both Amethi and anywhere he chooses in the South”, a Congress leader commented.
It may be recalled that in late 1979, Indira Gandhi had contested from two seats—Rae Bareli and Medak in Andhra Pradesh. She won from both but decided to retain Medak subsequently, allowing Arun Nehru to contest and win from Rae Bareli. In 1991, L.K. Advani, contesting his second Lok Sabha election, also entered the fray from both New Delhi and Gandhinagar. After winning New Delhi by a whisker, he gave up the seat, which was later won by Rajesh Khanna of the Congress, who defeated Shatrughan Sinha of the BJP.
In 1999, Sonia Gandhi contested simultaneously from Amethi and Bellary and gave up the latter after defeating Sushma Swaraj. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 1991, contested from both Vidisha and Lucknow, but gave up the former from where Shivraj Singh Chouhan was eventually elected. Therefore, there is nothing unusual in leaders contesting from more than one seat.