Rahul entry to overhaul Kerala election scenario - GulfToday

Rahul entry to overhaul Kerala election scenario

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Congress president Rahul Gandhi has finally decided to contest from Wayanad parliamentary seat.

AM Abdussalam

KOZHIKODE: After keeping party workers and rival parties on tenterhooks for a week, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has finally decided to contest from Wayanad parliamentary seat, jolting ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which enjoyed an upper hand initially due to the early announcement of candidates from all 20 seats in the state.

The efforts by party national leadership to dissuade Rahul Gandhi from taking the plunge into Kerala politics finally bottomed out, thanks to the hopes of Congress leadership to trigger Rahul wave throughout south India in its favour. The support for Rahul Gandhi cutting across party affiliations would also affect Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which hopes to open account in parliamentary polls from the state for the first time.

Ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) was hoping to cash in on the development projects and welfare schemes announced after coming to power and bag majority of Lok Sabah seats from the state. Also at stake is the efforts by CPI-M to remain as national party as any reduction of seats would spoil its chances.

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 nine MPs and the tally accounts for about 1.72 per cent of the total seats (545). Under the present political scenario, the CPIM was hoping to get a sizeable chunk of seats from Kerala.

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

Wayanad is sitting seat of Congress though in 2014, Satyan Mokeri of Communist Party of India (CPI) had shrunk the margin of sitting Congress MP MI Shanavas to just over 20,000 votes from a whopping 150,000-odd votes in 2009. 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.

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

With the entry of the star performer of Congress, state election is bound to reflect the Rahul effect. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan questioned the Congress decision with this in mind. He raised the impropriety of fielding a candidate against CPIM, which, in all probability, would help Congress form anti-BJP government at Centre, if results are favourable. The prospect of a visit by sister Priyanka for campaigning would also send ripples along the state.

BJP is also red-faced with ‘Prime Ministerial’ candidate entering Kerala as the move will project Rahul as a national leader, not necessarily tied to Hindi belt as in the case of Modi.

Even voters sympathetic to the Left are likely to throw their weight behind Congress as it is better placed to take on BJP at the national level. Congress hopes to maintain the warm relationship with CPI-M national leadership despite Rahul’s foray into Kerala and seek their support post elections, if need any.

Congress supporters burst crackers, distributed sweets and raised slogans praising Rahul Gandhi after the news broke out in various parts of Wayanad district on Sunday. When the much-awaited announcement finally came, the party activists, who gathered at the district committee office, were overcome by joy.

The jubilant workers, who were glued to the television, jumped with joy, hugged each other and danced. Sweets were distributed in Congress offices across the state also. Young Congress leader T. Siddique, whose name was initially proposed as candidate in Wayanad, said it was a ‘proud moment’ for him as a party activist. “I am feeling elated... it’s a proud moment...Rahulji’s decision is a surgical strike against BJP’s dubious plans to come back to power again,” he said.

Besides Kerala, the Congress state units in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had demanded that the party president contest the Lok Sabha elections from their respective states.

The party, which is contesting 16 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala in the polls on April 23, had earlier announced candidates for 14 constituencies, leaving out Wayanad and Vatakara.