Lok Sabha elections 2024 | Twice shy – what missing flags mean in Wayanad

Gandhi’s roadshow comes two days after M M Hassan, convenor of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), announced that party flags would not be used in the Wayanad campaign.
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 02:52 IST
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 02:52 IST

Follow Us :


Sultan Bathery: At the Assumption Hospital junction in Sultan Bathery, a crowd is building up ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow.

The excitement is palpable among the hundreds of Congress supporters, some of them in vote-Rahul T-shirts, many with placards that are also cover from the heat. Balloons in party colours emerge in the distance. Amid frenzied announcements that the Lok Sabha election candidate from Wayanad will be here “any minute”, a man walks in with a basket full of hats with Gandhi’s face on them, priced Rs 20 apiece. The thoroughfare is packed, the welcome looks rousing, but where are the flags?

Gandhi’s roadshow comes two days after M M Hassan, convenor of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), announced that party flags would not be used in the Wayanad campaign. No reason was, officially, given but it is all out there. During Gandhi’s 2019 campaign, Sangh Parivar supporters tweaked the presence of the flags of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) – Congress’ largest ally in the state, with a formidable base in the constituency – to allege a Pakistan connection. Five years later, the Congress is not taking a chance in the constituency; if it cannot use the IUML flag here, it will fold its flag as well.

Narayanan, a Congress activist in his 50s from the neighbouring village of Puthankunnu, says these “distractions” will have no bearing on the poll results and cannot be seen as the party giving in to the Sangh. Closer home, however, the case of the missing flags is feeding the narrative of Kerala’s ruling Left – that ideologically, the Congress is too compromised to take on the BJP and the RSS.

Whose fight is it?

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala which has consistently questioned the Congress’ credentials in fighting the BJP at the Centre has slammed the no-flag diktat. This, when the Left and the Congress are together in the opposition I.N.D.I.A. bloc formed against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The Left, and the BJP, have since 2019 criticised Gandhi’s decision to avoid tougher turfs in the Hindi heartland, to pick the “safe seat” in Wayanad.

“The 2019 issue was, after all, about a fake news campaign which the Congress could have countered on strong terms. Instead, they discarded their alliance partner’s flags and even took their flags out of the campaign. That shows a clear lack of conviction,” Annie Raja, CPI leader and LDF candidate from Wayanad, told DH.

Local Congress activists see stagecraft of alliance politics in the decision on the flags. “The UDF constitutes many parties; a decision to showcase all their flags, or none of them, means the same thing – this is an alliance that accommodates the interests of all.” Shibu, a resident of Sultan Bathery, said.

The Congress leadership is eyeing another big win for Gandhi, while the sceptics do see a possible drop in the margin – in 2019, he romped home with a 4.31-lakh-votes majority. There, however, is a play on optics that the Left will seek to dominate beyond this election.

Earlier this week, CPM politburo member Brinda Karat questioned the UDF over the missing pacha kodi (green flag) and then, held the green flag of the Indian National League (INL), a Left ally in Kerala. “This is the flag of the INL. The INL is a respected member of the LDF. We will fight on politics, we do not bow down to the BJP-RSS threat,” she said while campaigning for Annie Raja in the constituency.

Congress leader and Sultan Bathery MLA I C Balakrishnan said the issue was internal and in no way diluted the party’s fight against the BJP-RSS. “The decision was taken in consultation with all our allies. We are anyway using the party emblem in the campaign. Our focus is on retaining the constituency with a thumping majority, on taking back India as we know it,” he said.

Published 21 April 2024, 02:52 IST

Deccan Herald is on WhatsApp Channels | Join now for Breaking News & Editor's Picks

Follow us on :

Follow Us