The political angle being Rahul Gandhi choosing Wayanad as his second seat would seem to confirm what the party's critics have been alleging: Congress is set to lose badly in UP and that even Amethi, its traditional pocket borough, cannot be considered a sure-shot winner
When Oommen Chandy announced, out of the blue a few weeks back, that Rahul Gandhi would contest from Kerala's Wayanad, many eyebrows went up in a collective gasp of surprise and shock.
According to political pundits, it was a move fraught with risks both strategically and politically.
The political angle being Rahul choosing Wayanad as his second seat would seem to confirm what the party's critics have been alleging: Congress is set to lose badly in UP and that even Amethi, its traditional pocket borough, cannot be considered a sure-shot winner.
As a general strategy also, it was seen as being short-sighted, as contesting in Wayanad would mean taking on the Left front, who may be important for the Congress post-polls.
Anyway, after that announcement things seemed to be back-burnered as no word was heard any further.
It also emerged that Rahul's name was thrown up because of a typical internal fight for supremacy in the Congress.
Chandy, who is AK Anthony's right-hand man, wanted to show he had access to the high-command, and hence had come up with Rahul's name. This immediately triggered reactions from Ramesh Chennithala and Mullappally Ramachandran, who claimed that they were the first to request the AICC president to contest from Wayanad.
But with no official word from the high-command, even Chandy got jittery and claimed that he had never said, “Rahul would contest from Wayanad”, rather only said, "it would be better if Rahul decides to contest from any seat in Kerala."
Even as there was high drama in Kerala, the high command maintained a stony, ill-conceived silence.
Elsewhere, the Left leaders were aghast that the Congress would choose Wayanad for Rahul. This would mean the Congress was fighting the Left and not the BJP.
Some Left leaders had tried to prevail upon the Congress leaders in Delhi and stop Rahul from standing in Wayanad.
Even chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan pulled no punches when he said, "in Kerala, the LDF is the main force. Rahul is not coming to fight the BJP here, but the LDF.”
Amid all this thrust and parry of typical politics, the Congress on Sunday formally announced that Wayanad would be the second seat Rahul would contest from — Amethi being the first.
This is certain to trigger a fresh round of recriminations from the CPI(M) leaders in Kerala, who see this move as Congress's desperation. One leader described it as "fear of losing is driving Congress to attempt silly moves."
Wayanad has returned Congress's MI Shanavas, who passed away in November last, twice before. Though seen as a safe seat for the Congress, the ground reality today is different. There is a pretty high tribal population, and the entire belt was ravaged during the 2018 floods. The mixed nature of this parliamentary constituency can be gauged by the fact that it comprises three Assembly constituencies from Wayanad district, three from Malappuram district, and one from Kozhikode district. Maoists violence has also surged in the area, and earlier this month one Maoist terrorist was gunned down in a private resort. The home ministry has also marked the area as sensitive.
The Left front has given the ticket to CPI's PP Suneer who is a seasoned politician for Wayanad. While you can expect the Congress to leave no stone unturned while campaigning for Rahul, the fact of the matter is that the Left front has a point to prove, and it feels short-changed by Congress's move. "This is diabolical. They want to show that they are up against the BJP, but in reality, they are trying to cut only us," said a Left leader today.
Away from Kerala politics, the larger import of Rahul standing from Wayanad is something that would not be too pleasing for the Congress. It is trying to equate this to Narendra Modi standing from Varanasi too in 2014, aside from Vadodara. But when Modi stood in a constituency that Hindus across the country consider as holy, he was making a larger, civilisational point. Rahul has no such overarching theme or cultural goals.
"Since things are getting hot in his home seat, he is looking for an escape mechanism. Wayanad would seem to be his forlorn throw of dice. Not a winner's punt," says a BJP leader in New Delhi.
As a matter of fact, the bulk of the Amethi's Assembly constituencies were swept by the BJP in the last state elections. The Congress is also probably upset that the much-vaunted campaign of Priyanka Vadra has not set the Ganges on fire. This may also be one of the reasons for this backup plan, alleged the BJP.
"The Congress may want to give a positive spin, but they can't really hide the fact that this is poorly thought out move by the party. In the bargain it has also made an enemy out of a potential ally," says a political analyst.
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Last Updated 31, Mar 2019, 4:59 PM