Congress leaders from Kerala have strongly opposed a suggestion at the recent CPI national executive committee meeting that Rahul Gandhi should not contest from Wayanad as his immediate rival would be an INDIA ally.
Congress leaders have en masse objected to the observation that Rahul contesting against the CPI, which is part of the Left Democratic Front, would only send a wrong message and become a talking point for the BJP.
The CPI has contested all three Lok Sabha elections that have been held in Wayanad, with the Congress always winning. In 2019, Rahul’s nearest rival was the CPI candidate.
The suggestion on Wayanad was made at the CPI’s national executive committee meeting in Delhi on September 19 and 20, although the party has not made such a demand in public.
Kerala Congress president K. Sudhakaran has urged the party high command to ensure that Rahul once again takes the field from Wayanad, which elected him in 2019 with a record margin.
“It is not for the CPI to say that. It’s lack of propriety that makes them say that he should not contest from a Congress seat,” Sudhakaran lashed out at the observation that has not found acceptance even with the CPM.
“The KPCC wants Rahul Gandhi to contest from Wayanad and I have shared this demand with (AICC general secretary) K.C. Venugopal,” Sudhakaran said.
Senior Congress leader and convener of the party-led United Democratic Front, M.M. Hassan, said the CPI was not empowered to decide on Congress candidates. “It’s the Congress, and not the CPI, that should take such decisions,” he told reporters.
P. Sandosh Kumar, Rajya Sabha member and CPI leader from Kerala who participated in the national executive committee meeting, justified his party’s proposal. “This suggestion is very logical since Rahul Gandhi, as a prominent leader of the INDIA combine, contesting against an alliance partner in Kerala will send the wrong message and become a talking point for the BJP,” he told The Telegraph on Saturday.
Kumar felt that it was alright for any other Congress leader to contest against the CPI or any of the INDIA allies in Kerala. “It is politically essential for the LDF and the UDF to face each other in Kerala to keep the BJP at bay. So we need to understand the wrong message Rahul Gandhi’s candidature against the CPI would send a wrong message that the BJP will capitalise on in other states,” he said.
The CPM has distanced itself from the views of its Left ally. “It is the respective parties that will decide who will contest from their seats. We have no such opinion,” CPM central committee member A.K. Balan told reporters, reacting to the controversy.
The Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency had welcomed Rahul with open arms in 2019 and elected him by a record margin of 4,31,770 votes. Although Rahul lost from Amethi to Smriti Irani of the BJP, his presence in Kerala had galvanised the UDF that won 19 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in one of its best-ever performances in the south, that too with the LDF in power.
Wayanad district panchayat president and district Youth Congress president Shamshad Marakkar told this newspaper that while Wayanad would be a cakewalk for Rahul, contesting again would help the party even though the Left is an ally at the national level.
“If Rahul Gandhi contests again I am sure he will win by an even bigger margin as the people are in that kind of a mood ever since he was disqualified,” Marakkar said.
Wayanad was left without a representative in the Lok Sabha for four months after a Surat court convicted Rahul and sentenced him to two years in jail in a defamation case. The constituency erupted in celebrations when the Supreme Court stayed the conviction in August.