Wayanad wants Rahul Gandhi to win from Raebareli too, but asks for this in return:

If Rahul Gandhi wins from Raebareli and decides to keep that seat, his supporters in Kerala's Wayanad would like a member of the Gandhi family to represent their constituency in the Lok Sabha.

Rahul Gandhi files his nomination for the Lok Sabha election in Rae Bareli on 3 May (photo: PTI)
Rahul Gandhi files his nomination for the Lok Sabha election in Rae Bareli on 3 May (photo: PTI)

Alex Chandy

When Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers on Friday, 3 May, from the Raebareli Lok Sabha constituency, it ended the suspense whether he would be contesting from another constituency in the north and whether it would be from Amethi or Raebareli.

In Kerala, however, there was not much of a ripple although some did wonder if it would damage the Congress and the UDF in the assembly election due in 2026 if Rahul Gandhi wins from both Wayanad and Rae Bareli and decides to give up Wayanad.

“We are okay with both. We know he will take the right decision,” said an optimistic congressman, who added, “the party has several strong candidates to contest from here."

People in Kerala have always had a special affection for the Gandhi-Nehru family and many believe that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would step in and contest from Wayanad in the byelection in case her brother wins from both the seats and decides to stick to Rae Bareli.

Some believe that if Rahul Gandhi wins in Rae Bareli, he would vacate the seat in Uttar Pradesh for Priyanka Gandhi.

There is general agreement that the brother-sister duo have their task cut out in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state with the highest number of seats in the Lok Sabha, and they need to be present in the northern states; there are also several people who believe that it would not be a bad idea if a member of the family gets elected from the South.

The family, they say, needs to represent the South as well and remain connected with the people here. Rahul is as important to Wayanad and Kerala as he is important to Rai Bareli and Uttar Pradesh, they maintain.

However, there is also the recognition that Rahul Gandhi and UDF’s main support in Wayanad comes from the IUML. The Lok Sabha constituency is spread over three assembly constituencies in Wayanad district, three in Mallapuram and one in Kozhikode. All seven assembly constituencies will be important if the UDF is to wrest power in the the state from LDF.

Both Rahul and Priyanka campaigned extensively in Kerala, and their presence did make a difference, say Congressmen. Their involvement in the assembly election will also count for much, they believe, in the assembly election too.

The Left Democratic Front, which contested in all the 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in Kerala, hopes to win several seats this time while BJP is pinning its hope on Thrissur.

The UDF sources, however, are confident that the relatively low voter turn-out of 71.27 per cent against the 2019 percentage of 77.67 is not going to make any difference and the United Democratic Front will win all 20 seats. The UDF led by the Congress had won 19 seats in the last elections.

The Left Democratic Front led by CPI (M) however believes that the low voter turnout will benefit the Left. “We should be able to win around 14 seats,” says Dr Thomas Isaac, former finance minister of the state in the first Vijayan government and who is also in the fray for the Lok Sabha.

“BJP will not be able to open its account. Not any time soon as even the Hindus in Kerala are secular and believe in democratic values,” Dr Isaac said before adding, “They will finish a respectable third everywhere”.

What is of far greater concern to the CPI(M) is its national party status which is at stake in these elections. The party needs to win a higher number of seats and also increase its vote share to hold on to the national party status. With the party not expecting much from West Bengal and Tripura, Kerala remains its only hope to keep that status intact.

These elections were fought with the traditional sickle, hammer and star symbol of the CPI(M) but if they lose the national party status, it will have to fight future elections with whatever symbol is allotted by the Election Commission. This explains the compulsion of the LDF to contest from more seats in Kerala and West Bengal and put up a stiff fight to the Congress, though both are part of the INDIA bloc.

As per ECI guidelines, a national party needs to win at least 2 per cent of the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha from at least three different states. That means in a house of 543 seats, the party requires 11 seats to avoid being downgraded. A minimum 6 per cent vote share in Lok Sabha or assembly elections is also necessary.

In April 2023, Aam Aadmi Party was accorded the national party status because it is in power in Delhi and Punjab and also has its presence in Goa and Gujarat. The Communist Party of India, CPI, and Trinamool Congress have lost their national party status.

Dr Isaac, who is a candidate from Pathanamthitta, is pitted against the sitting MP Anto Antony of the UDF, a popular figure and a favourite this time too. He believes the LDF could win as many as 14 seats this time in the state. The mood within the Congress is different.

They think it could be 18-02, the same as in 2019. “We have reasons to believe so because all are candidates are strong and are capable of repeating performance,” a local Congress leader said. The margin of victory and defeat would be smaller though, he conceded.

In Thiruvananthapuram, a lot of women appeared quite displeased with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s insinuation that a Congress government would take away their mangalsutra. What does he know about “thalimala” or “minnumala”, some women were overheard exclaiming.

Most of the churches in Kerala made it abundantly clear that they were not happy with the way the violence was handled in Manipur where hundreds of churches were burnt and Christians harmed. The low polling in Kerala may not even give BJP the vote percentage it is looking for, is the prevailing feeling in the state.

The LDF appears to be pinning its hope on the low polling percentage. It was in the 2004 general elections when the overall percentage was low, that Left Democratic Front had their best haul of 18 seats. UDF had only one to show.

The vote percentage then was 71.43, almost the same as it is now, 71.27 per cent. Another time LDF shared honours with UDF was in 1996. Both got 10 apiece. That year too, the voting percentage was 71. Interestingly, when the polling was 70 or 71 per cent, UDF has not been a big gainer.

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