Congress eyes big victory for Priyanka in Wayanad; mixed feeling among voters | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Congress eyes big victory for Priyanka in Wayanad; mixed feeling among voters

Jun 18, 2024 07:20 PM IST

Senior Congress leader from Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala, said the party workers and leaders have welcomed Priyanka Gandhi’s candidacy in Wayanad with great enthusiasm and excitement

The estimated 14.6 lakh voters of the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in north Kerala are set to make their way to the polling booth for a bye-election with the Congress announcing that incumbent MP Rahul Gandhi will vacate the seat.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with Rahul Gandhi during the latter’s roadshow ahead of filing his nomination for the Lok Sabha polls in Kerala’s Wayanad in April 2024. (AP File Photo)
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with Rahul Gandhi during the latter’s roadshow ahead of filing his nomination for the Lok Sabha polls in Kerala’s Wayanad in April 2024. (AP File Photo)

While Gandhi has chosen to retain the family pocket borough of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, which he won alongside Wayanad in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has nominated its general secretary and Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the bye-election in Wayanad. This will be her first electoral outing.

“The workers and leaders of Congress party have welcomed the news of Priyanka’s candidacy in Wayanad with great enthusiasm and excitement. If Rahul’s victory margin in this election was 3.6 lakh votes, the people of Wayanad will take Priyanka’s victory margin beyond 4 lakhs. The CPI, which is part of the INDIA bloc, should ideally support Priyanka in this bye-election. Everyone saw what happened when they pitched a candidate against Rahul. I hope they wouldn’t make another Himalayan blunder,” said senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala.

CPI state secretary Binoy Viswam, however, disagreed and said the Congress sometimes has failed to understand the politics behind the formation of the INDIA bloc.

“The crux of the politics of INDIA bloc is to resist the policies and ideas of the RSS-BJP forces. If the Congress had known that, it would not have fielded a big face of the bloc like Rahul Gandhi here in Kerala. His contest should have been in north India where the stronghold of the RSS-BJP lies. Under pressure from Congress leaders in Kerala, Rahul was fielded here. And now, in the second week of his election from Wayanad, he has resigned,” said Viswam, adding that the party will field a good candidate in the bypoll against Priyanka.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state chief K Surendran, who was fielded by the party in Wayanad and came a distant third, mocked the Congress for ‘encouraging’ dynastic politics.

“When Rahul said Wayanad was like his family, this is what he meant. After Priyanka, it should now field Robert Vadra in the bye-election in Palakkad Assembly segment. The whole family will be represented,” he said.

UDF fortress

Formed post-delimitation in 2008, Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency has only elected Congress MPs in the four elections so far. In 2009 and 2014, the party’s veteran leader and then state working president MI Shanavas cruised to victory by 1.53 lakh votes and 20,000 votes, respectively. In 2019, Rahul Gandhi was fielded as the candidate and he took the winning margin above 4 lakh votes even as he tasted defeat at the hands of the BJP in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh for the first time. In 2024, Gandhi was re-elected by a margin of 3.6 lakh votes, defeating CPI’s Annie Raja and BJP’s K Surendran.

The constituency spreads over three districts – Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malappuram. While Mananthavady, Sulthan Bathery and Kalpetta are the Assembly segments in Wayanad, Thiruvambady falls in Kozhikode district and Nilambur, Eranad and Wandoor in Malappuram district.

There are four general Assembly seats, two seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one seat for Scheduled Castes.

The seat is primarily seen as a UDF stronghold as its two key constituents – Congress and IUML – enjoy wide support base and have a bedrock of support especially among Muslims and Christians, who together make up around 60% of the electorate. Both parties have good organisational presence at the booth level even though IUML has a much better machinery that can take its committed voter base to the polling booth. Out of the seven Assembly segments, UDF has MLAs in four of them currently.

Mixed reaction

Jacob Sebastian, the vice-chairman of the Mananthavady municipality who belongs to Congress, said the voters are unhappy with Rahul for vacating the seat. “But Priyanka is being fielded and that’s good. They would have been unhappy if someone else was contesting. We will work hard to ensure that she gets a bigger victory margin than her brother.”

However, Saji US, an independent panchayat ward member who earns a living by driving a school van, said the party should have ideally fielded a candidate with whom the voters and local representatives can interact freely without language barriers. “I am sure Priyanka is a good leader, but the fact is that she doesn’t know our language. How will we communicate with her about our concerns? We will have to route them through other Congress leaders who I’m sure will display bias. She will ultimately be an MP who will play according to the whims and fancies of local Congress leaders,” said Saji.

Jins KP, who drives a jeep in Mananthavady town, felt the constituency has a host of concerns from night-traffic ban to Mysuru to human-animal conflict and absence of health facilities, all of which require the services of a full-time MP who would be available to voters.

“I fear Priyanka will be just like Rahul who would come once in two or three months. She is a national leader of the Congress who has to be present more in Delhi than in Wayanad. And so, we feel our concerns will not be solved in a timely manner,” he said.

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