Analysis | Rahul in Wayanad a strategic assault to shift poll narrative

Rahul Gandhi's Wayanad foray is Cong's surgical strike the Left & BJP can't ignore
Rahul's candidature in Wayanad will boost the prospects of the Congress in Kerala as well as other southern states.

With the Congress ending uncertainty over its president Rahul Gandhi's candidature in Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, the Left Democratic Front in Kerala is expected to be more belligerent in its attack on the Congress for obvious reasons.

The chances of the two main constituents of the Left - the CPM and the CPI – to remain as national parties are now in danger.

To get the coveted national party status, political parties have to either get two per cent of seats from three different states or six per cent of Lok Sabha or Assembly polls in at least four states. In the outgoing 16th Lok Sabha, CPI(M) has 9 MPs and the tally accounts for about 1.72 per cent of the total seats (545). CPI has a lone MP, C. N. Jayadevan who won from the Thrissur Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 elections, and hence the party's share of the total Lok Sabha seats is a mere 0.19 per cent. 

Another option to attain the status is to be recognised as a state party in four states.

The Election Commission would review national party status every five years.

Given the present political scenario, the Left's main and perhaps only hope to get a sizeable chunk of votes was from Kerala.

Wayanad Lok Sabha Constituency

Rahul's candidature changes the dynamics of voting in the southern state, which has often sided with Congress-led fronts in the Lok Sabha elections.

The Wayanad constituency is spread over three districts – Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram.

Four of the seven assembly segments have LDF legislators. It has an upper hand at the gram panchayat level too, ruling 29 of the 50 panchayats.

But Lok Sabha poll is a different league all together.

Wayanad is Congress' sitting seat though in 2014, CPI's Satyan Mokeri had shrunk the margin of sitting Congress MP M I Shanavas to just over 20,000 votes from a whopping 1,50,000-odd votes in 2009.

That was due to a host of adverse local factors.

Wayanad Lok Sabha Constituency | Elections 2019

Since Rahul is now contesting from Wayanad, it may have a ripple effect in all the seats in Kerala.'

That is why CPM politburo member and state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan questioned the message the Congress would be sending out if Rahul were to be fielded in Kerala, when news first broke out about such a possibility.

Going to the Saffron camp, the BJP cannot hope to make any impact even by roping in a heavyweight in Wayanad.

This also is a challenge thrown by the Congress to Narendra Modi – the move pits Rahul as a leader with pan-India acceptability.

Now, the BJP will be forced to consider the candidature of Narendra Modi from a southern constituency.

Victory from any southern state may not be a foregone conclusion for the BJP, with its limited pockets of influence, apart from Karnataka.

That will also shift the focus of poll battle to south, a prospect which the BJP is not keen.

It wants to reap dividends from the Balakot air strike, which resonates more with the electorate in northern states than in south.

So the narrative of the poll which the BJP has been setting so far would have to undergo a sea change.

That is easier said than done.

Shrill voices of jingoism may have a negative impact in southern states.

So if the opposition manages to tie down Modi to south with a fierce contest, the BJP would have an uphill task.

Wayanad borders Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and Congress and allies hope to reap benefits of Rahul's candidature in these states too.

With Rahul's candidature, the Priyanka effect would also come into play.

All these factors make the going tough for the BJP as well.

Waiting for another surgical political strike from the saffron camp.

Nehru-Gandhi Family in Elections

Strategic assault, shift in narrative

The Congress' calculation is that it need not worry much about post-poll alliances, especially with the Left, as the latter is not likely to get a sizeable number of seats in this Lok Sabha election.

The likely low tally in the House will weaken any bargaining power which the Left hopes to garner in a probable UPA dispensation.

Since most opposition parties loathe the prospect of another term for the BJP, the Congress sees it as a natural beneficiary.

Such parties cannot be seen as propping up a BJP-led government in the event of a hung verdict.

In the Kerala context, the Congress sees even voters sympathetic to the Left tilting towards the Congress as it is better placed to take on BJP at the national level.

A leader of Rahul's stature contesting from Kerala would bury all other permutations and combinations that would have worked against the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state.

It is advantage Congress as of now, a strategic assault on the Left and an uneasy shift in narrative for the BJP.

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