Rahul’s Wayanad seat announcement evokes sharp reactions from left, right
New Delhi, March 31 (PTI): The Congress’ announcement that party chief Rahul Gandhi will contest from Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala besides his traditional stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh evoked sharp reactions on Sunday from the Left and Right of the political spectrum.
While the CPI(M) and CPI said the move signalled that the Congress wanted to take on the Left which would work towards defeating him in the elections from Wayanad, the BJP said Gandhi “fled” to Kerala fearing that Amethi voters will seek an account of the work done by him and his party over the years.
Veteran Congress leader from Kerala and former defence minister A K Antony made the announcement that Gandhi will contest from Wayanad apart from Amethi at a press conference, saying Gandhi had consented to fighting from the constituency in Kerala following requests from the party’s state unit.
The decision is seen as an attempt by the Congress to consolidate its electoral base in south India, especially Kerala which has 20 Lok Sabha seats. Tamil Nadu has 39 Lok Sabha seats and Karnataka has 28.
Reacting to the development, CPI(M) politbureau member Prakash Karat said the decision of the Congress shows that the party wants to take on the Left in Kerala.
“Their priority now is to fight against the Left in Kerala. It goes against Congress’ national commitment to fight the BJP, as in Kerala it is the LDF which is the main force fighting the BJP there,” he told reporters.
The CPI(M) ex-general secretary said his party will work to ensure Gandhi’s defeat in Wayanad.
BJP chief Amit Shah also took a sharp dig at Gandhi at a rally in Uttar Pradesh for contesting from two seats.
Shah, while speaking at his first election meeting in western UP, said, “Rahul Gandhi has fled to Kerala as he fears that Amethi voters will seek an account from him.”
CPI leader D Raja also questioned the decision of the Congress, saying it made no sense.
“I don’t understand what politics the Congress is playing here. There is no BJP to fight in Kerala, it is the Left versus the Congress-led UDF. By choosing a constituency in Kerala for Rahul Gandhi, what message is the Congress conveying to the country,” Raja asked.
“The primary objective is to defeat the BJP, how does this move help in that? We are not going to withdraw our candidate from the seat. Rahul Gandhi has to answer to the people of this country,” he said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who is in Thiruvananthapuram to campaign for the elections, said deciding on candidates was the internal matter of a political party and no other party needed to intervene in that.
“The priority of the CPM is to oust Narendra Modi from power,” he said, adding that the LDF would register a thumping win in Kerala.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Gandhi contesting from Wayanad could only be seen as a move to fight the Left parties and not the BJP, and asserted that the LDF would defeat him in the April 23 Lok Sabha elections.
Meanwhile, the Congress’ Amethi unit said the UP district is family for Rahul Gandhi.
Gandhi has been thrice elected to Parliament from Amethi, considered the Congress bastion in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
“He has decided to fight from Wayanad in Kerala in keeping with the demand and emotions of the party workers. Amethi is family and a family is forever,” Congress’s Amethi unit president Yogendra Mishra said.
Following the announcement, celebrations broke out in the hilly constituency of Wayanad and the rest of Kerala as Congress cadres burst crackers, distributed sweets and raised slogans praising Gandhi.
On BJP’s criticism that Gandhi’s is “not very strong” in Amethi, Surjewala, at the press conference, earlier said, “Why doesn’t the BJP answer why Modi ji left Gujarat and went to Varanasi. Does that mean that his condition was bad in Gujarat. Instead of discussing these type of immature things, they should discuss key political issues. Why is the BJP so scared?”
In a swipe at Union minister Smriti Irani who is contesting against Gandhi in Amethi, he said, “Pehle Delhi mein Chandni Chowk ne haraya, phir Amethi ne bhagaya. Jis mantri mahoyadaya ki charcha kar rahe hain, jinko ticket di hai, ab haar ki hat-trick ka mahaul bana hai (First lost from Chandni Chowk, then Amethi. And now, for the minister in question there is an atmosphere of a hat-trick of defeats)”.
Surjewala said Wayanad has a unique geographical feature as it links Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri and Karnataka’s Mysore, and has the geographical and cultural representation of the three states.
Senior Congress leader Antony said Wayanad is situated in Kerala, but is also surrounded by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
“In a way it’ll satisfy the requests of three southern states,” he said.