Congress President Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad constituency in Kerala could prove to be a coup de force for the party, with its ripple effect expected to spread across the southern states.
The surprise move is a shot in the arm for the party workers, and senior Congress leaders like AICC General Secretary and former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala have already predicted a ‘Rahul wave’ across the southern states.
By entering the fray in the northern district of Wayanad, which is a border district with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Rahul is expected to influence the voters in both these states.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) workers have already begun campaigning for Rahul even though an official announcement is yet to be made.
Rahul is also contesting from Amethi, where he is expected to face a stiff fight from Smriti Irani, whom he defeated in the last election. Many feel that Rahul’s move to Wayanad, which is one of the safest seats for Congress, is fearing a possible debacle in Amethi.
Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan said that Rahul’s coming to Wayanad does not send the right message. He added that Congress should focus on defeating the BJP, and not contesting the LDF. However, CPI, which has fielded its candidate in Wayanad, will not withdraw its candidate in the wake of Rahul’s entry.
“Rahul Gandhi is coming to Wayanad because he is afraid that he may be beaten in Amethi,” said MV Shreyams Kumar, state president of Lok Thantic Janata Dal, which is an ally of the LDF.
Kerala, which has never had a potential prime ministerial candidate in his electoral history, will surely see some spirited campaign by Congress, which has been reeling under divisive group politics.
T Siddique, who has already been named as the Congress candidate in Wayanad, has said that he is more than happy to make way for Rahul. Chandy, who lobbied for Siddique, said he had in fact spoken to the young leader before approaching Rahul to consider Wayanad as his second constituency.
The UDF has already pulled out a rabbit in Vadakara seat by fielding a popular leader, K Muraleedharan, against P Jayarajan, a senior CPM leader. Political observers feel that the move could tilt the equation in the northern constituencies.
In the meantime, the BJP has finally announced its state general secretary, K Surendran, as its candidate in Pathanamthitta constituency. Surendran has dubbed Rahul’s move to come to Wayanad as a ‘historic blunder’ and said that BJP will upset a few applecarts this time.