Sulking since May 23 over his party's near-absolute decimation in the general elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi will have his first political engagement with the people later Friday when he arrives in Kerala's Wayanad, the constituency that ensured his re-election to the Lok Sabha despite his defeat in the family seat of Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.
Barring his participation in the Congress Working Committee meeting, on May 25, where he offered to resign as Congress president, his address to the party's MPs on June 1 and a few meetings with Congress colleagues and allies like Sharad Pawar and HD Kumaraswamy, Rahul has kept out of public glare since the poll debacle. He has remained adamant on quitting as Congress president despite the CWC unanimously rejecting his resignation.
Rahul's three-day tour of Wayanad, which will begin this afternoon with his arrival at the Karippur International Airport in Kozhikode, will see him participating in nearly a dozen road shows and public receptions.
The Congress president had chosen to contest the recent Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad, aside from his traditional constituency of Amethi, asserting that the decision was aimed at "sending a message of inclusion" to India's southern states. The BJP had, however, countered Rahul's move by claiming that he was moving to a "non-Hindu majority" seat because he was "scared to lose in Amethi".
On May 23, as results poured in for the Lok Sabha polls, Rahul lost Amethi - a seat he had been representing since 2004 and one that his party had retained for over three decades - to BJP's Smriti Irani by a margin of over 55000 votes. He, however, succeeded in wresting the Wayanad seat, where his principal rival was the CPM and not the BJP, with a victory margin of over 4.30 lakh.
Rahul's decision to contest from Wayanad helped the Congress-led UDF coalition sweep 19 of Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha seat, with the CPM winning the lone seat of Alapuzzha.
Wiped out across practically the entire north, central and western Indian states by a resurgent Narendra Modi wave, the Congress won its maximum seats,15, from Kerala, the only state where it could win in double digits.
Incidentally, while the Congress president will be spending the next three days in Wayanad accepting applause from party workers and colleagues, he is yet to decide on visiting Amethi to meet his former constituents and understand why they voted him out.
During his tour of Wayanad, Rahul will lead road shows across all assembly segments that fall in the Parliamentary constituency. The public receptions have been planned in Vandur, Ernad, Nilambur, Kalpetta and Thiruvambady. Several of the newly elected Congress and UDF MPs from Kerala and the party's state unit leaders are expected to accompany Rahul during the road shows. He is also expected to have meetings with party leaders and allies from the IUML and Kerala Congress during the three-day visit.