Self-interest, and not common good of opposition’s alliance, seems to have driven Indian National Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to Wayanad to contest the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
Apart from Wayanad, Rahul is contesting from Amethi which had voted him to Parliament in the past three elections. This time, he is again facing Smriti Irani of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whom he defeated by more than 100,000 votes in 2014 elections.
So what makes Rahul “flee” from his “safe” Amethi seat to the untested Wayanad ignoring criticisms from BJP and also from Left parties, his allies, who have fielded their own candidate there?
Reports suggest a tough fight in Amethi. Irani, now a federal minister, is so confident of victory that when rumours started going rounds about Rahul contesting from Wayanad, she said, “Flee, Rahul, flee!”
BJP believes Rahul is insecure in Amethi. According to their leaders, Rahul finally agreed to contest from Wayanad hoping that he will get the large chunk of minority votes (52%) with the backing of Muslim League.
Minority communities, especially Muslim and Christian voters, in the Wayanad-Malappuram-Kozhikode belt are seeing Rahul as India’s future prime minister (The Wayanad parliamentary constituency consists of seven assembly segments spread across Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts).
This explains why Left parties in Kerala were upset when veteran Congress leader AK Anthony officially announced Rahul’s candidature from Wayanad on Sunday.
Prominent leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan says Rahul’s decision to contest from Wayanad goes against the spirit of their political alliance.
Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI-M’s coalition partner in the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, has already fielded its candidate in Wayanad. The two Left parties were left red-faced following Rahul’s decision to challenge them.
CPI has already made it clear that they will not change their candidate from Wayanad, PP Suneer.
Congress, which considers itself as the big brother, on Monday added insult to injury by asking the two Left parties to withdraw Suneer’s candidature to facilitate a cakewalk for Rahul in Wayanad.
The party argues that both Congress and Left parties are secular-minded and their common enemy is the Modi-led BJP. Instead of fighting among themselves, which makes no sense, one of them should pull out its candidate. Since Congress party’s tallest leader is coming to contest from Wayanad, CPI should read the signs and quietly withdraw its candidate.
The Congress party chief could have picked another constituency in Kerala to confront a BJP candidate. Instead, he is fighting with his alliance partner. It sends a wrong message to allies fighting the BJP at the national level, Vijayan says.
Which party is the common enemy of the opposition’s grand alliance? Is it the BJP or Left parties? Rahul must clarify on this, he says.
The two Left parties met on Monday to formulate strategies to defeat Rahul in Wayanad. They believe their honour is at stake. They also feel cheated by Congress.
During the campaign ahead, Left parties are going to face a huge embarrassment. All along, they had been silent on corruption charges against Congress and the Gandhi family. If they want to win the Wayanad seat, they will have to utter things which BJP had been saying all along against the grand old party.
BJP wants Left parties to explain the logic in campaigning against Congress in Wayanad and joining hands with that party in neighbouring states. They claim Wayanad’s voters are conscious of this absurdity and will reject both the CPI and Congress.
Congress has defended Rahul’s candidature from Wayanad by arguing that the place is ideally located for him to campaign in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to set a strong wave across southern India in favour of the party.
Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala has given another explanation which may embarrass even party cadres. According to Surjewala, Rahul is contesting from Wayanad to safeguard the cultural tradition of south India.
But Rahul played safe when hundreds of devotees of Lord Ayyappa were thrashed and jailed by the leftist government in Kerala late last year for resisting a state move to implement a Supreme Court order against a centuries-old tradition in Sabarimala temple.
Such soft approach by Congress proves words like “secular-minded” and “protecting cultural tradition” are meant to impress voters.
Left parties are hell-bent on defeating Rahul and BJP has fielded Tushar Vellapally of Bhartiya Dharma Jana Sangam (BDJS), its ally, against the Congress chief. BDJS represents the Ezhava community which has a large presence in the Wayanad-Malappuram-Kozhikode belt.
While Congress claims Rahul will win by a huge margin in Amethi, the story may be different in Wayanad.