New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s candidacy from south India, apart from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, was planned in advance by the Congress leadership. The only question was the choice between a seat in Kerala or Karnataka.
Rahul was not interested in contesting from two seats, but senior leaders made him realise the importance of his Parliamentary representation this time and dangers of depending only on Amethi for it.
History may repeat
Rahul's grandmother Indira Gandhi had contested from two seats in 1980 – Rae Bareli in UP and Medak in Andhra Pradesh and won both seats. His mother Sonia Gandhi too contested from Amethi and Bellary, Karnataka, in 1999. She won both too.
The Chikamagalur constituency former prime minister Indira chose for a 1978 bypoll has been renamed Udupi-Chikamagaluru. The BJP has been winning this seat for the last two terms. Bellary is now a reserved seat.
A safe seat in Karnataka this time is Bangalore Rural, where Congress candidate D K Suresh had won with over 2 lakh votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Kerala’s Wayanad came up during discussion on this Karnataka option.
Oommen Chandy’s tactic
The high command had ordered KPCC not to declare anyone for Wayanad. Hence no names came up during seat declaration. It was AICC general secretary and former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy who opined that a candidate be declared and then recalled. Rahul’s Kerala visit came at this juncture. He wanted to visit Wayanad, but was denied permission because of a Maoist attack on a resort last month.
However, even when T Siddique and K Muraleedharan were asked to begin campaign in these two seats, the chief AICC election panel abstained from naming them officially.
Meanwhile the high command asked a letter be sent asking Rahul to contest from Karnataka. This was to create an impression that constituencies there too were in consideration.
Chandy achieved another goal through this strategy – he snatched a long-time 'I' group seat for the 'A' group in the party. When Rahul leaves Wayanad after winning both seats, Siddique may be fielded in a bypoll if the former vacates his Kerala seat and opts to retain Amethi.
Several reasons led to Rahul’s second-seat decision, which is deemed to be a wise political move to counter political rivals. BJP is set to challenge him with full might in Amethi.
Mayawati, the BSP chieftain who eyes the prime minister's seat, may not want the Congress leader to have it easy in his UP constituency though both BSP and SP have declared they won't field candidates in Amethi or Sonia’s Rae Bareli. But the Congress fears Mayawati could divert votes in favour of BJP candidates.
The Congress also expect to boost its prospects in other south Indian states too if its national president contests from a seat in Kerala or Karnataka.
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