Wayanad: mixed message

The Congress has tried to send an electoral message with its decision to field party president Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha seat of Wayanad in Kerala. He is also contesting the election from his traditional seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, from where he has won three times in the past. The idea behind the candidature from Wayanad is to give Rahul Gandhi a bigger national image as a leader from both the North and the South and, more importantly, greater visibility in the South, which will help the party to create a better impact in all South Indian states. It will try to reinforce a perception that the Modi government is not representative of the South as the BJP does not have a footprint in any South Indian state, except Karnataka. The party hopes that Rahul’s candidature from Wayanad will boost its prospects in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

There are 133 Lok Sabha seats in the South and the Congress’ performance in these seats will be important for the party in any post-poll scenario. So, the party will give special attention to these states. Wayanad abuts Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but the geographical location may not be very important. Any impact of the candidature on the other states will depend on how it will be projected and received in the states. While this remains to be seen, what is certain is that Rahul Gandhi has bought an insurance with his candidature from Wayanad. The Congress has won the seat consecutively in the last two elections, and it is a safe seat for the party. Rahul Gandhi won Amethi with a majority of over a lakh votes in 2014, but the margin had shrunk from the 2009 election. The Congress does not hold any of the assembly seats in the constituency currently, and the BJP candidate Smriti Irani has been active there. Though the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party alliance will not field a candidate against Rahul Gandhi, the party perhaps does not want to take a risk. Wayanad cuts the risk. 

The Left parties are unhappy with the choice of Wayanad by the Congress because they feel that it would send out the message that the Left, not the BJP, is the Congress’ main enemy. Rahul Gandhi’s main rival in Wayanad will be a CPI candidate, PP Suneer. It is doubtful whether the CPI candidate would win even if Rahul Gandhi did not contest from the seat. But the Left has a point. Rahul Gandhi could have made a stronger political point and sent out a clearer electoral message if he had contested against a BJP candidate in the South. 

 

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Wayanad: mixed message

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