Priyanka to make electoral debut from Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi retains Raebareli | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Priyanka to make electoral debut from Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi retains Raebareli

Jun 17, 2024 09:41 PM IST

The Congress party, however, didn’t disclose if Rahul Gandhi will be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha

Former Congress president and lawmaker Rahul Gandhi will retain Raebareli, the constituency long associated with the Gandhi family, and vacate his Wayanad seat where the party will field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, party president Mallikarjun Kharge announced on Monday. Both Rahul and Priyanka—the latter set to make her electoral debut—assured that they will simultaneously take care of Raebareli and Wayanad.

Congress leaders and brother-sister duo Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra share a hug after the announcement of Priyanka's candidature from the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, in New Delhi on Monday. (Hindustan Times)
Congress leaders and brother-sister duo Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra share a hug after the announcement of Priyanka's candidature from the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, in New Delhi on Monday. (Hindustan Times)

If Priyanka wins Wayanad in the by-election, it would be the first time for the Nehru-Gandhi family that the mother, her son and daughter—all three will be Parliamentarians. Priyanka, like most of her family members, has worked in the organisation before making her electoral debut.

The party, however, didn’t disclose if Rahul will be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. But Rahul gave a broad indication when he said that in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting Kharge had “threatened” him (with action if he doesn’t accept CWC’s resolution to be LoP). Priyanka also added that “I have given my advice (on LoP) to him.”

“Our leader Rahul Gandhi has won from two seats. As per the law, he has to vacate one seat. Tomorrow is the last date (to vacate). That’s why today we sat and decided Rahul Gandhi should retain his Raebareli seat because it has a long relationship with him. Raebareli has a close link with his family and for generations, Gandhi family had been fighting from Raebareli. That’s why people of Raebareli as well as the party feels that it would be better if he retains Raebareli seat,” said Kharge, flanked by Rahul, Priyanka and party general secretary KC Venugopal.

“The people of Wayanad, too, want Rahul Gandhi to retain his seat. But the law doesn’t permit so. That’s why, after much deliberations, we decided that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should fight from Wayanad. Both have agreed,” Kharge added, after an hour-long meeting at his residence attended by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Priyanka and Venugopal.

Rahul maintained it was “not an easy” decision as he is “attached” to both places. “I have an old relationship with Raebareli. I am happy that I will represent it again,” Gandhi said. He added, “I had been Wayanad MP for past 5 years. It was a fantastic experience. People of Wayanad, cutting across party lines, gave me love and affection. I want to thank them and will remember them forever.”

Gandhi, who made his electoral debut in 2004 from Amethi, fought from Wayanad as a second seat to boost the party’s prospects in Kerala in 2019. That year, he lost to Union minister Smriti Irani in Amethi but won from Wayanad.

A senior Congress strategist maintained, “It was simply not possible for Rahul to leave Raebareli for political reasons. He is the face of the party and must represent the most politically important state, UP. His presence will further cement the Congress’ ties with Samajwadi Party.”

Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been a Raebareli MP between 1967 to 1977. Feroze Gandhi was a two-term MP from there in 1952 and 1957. After Rahul fought from Amethi, Sonia Gandhi shifted to adjoining Raebareli seat and remained MP from 2004 to 2024 from there. Earlier this year, she shifted to Rajya Sabha.

Ironically, in 1980, when Indira won Raebareli and Medak in 1980, she left her UP seat and opted for Medak in Andhra Pradesh. 44 years later, her grandson retained Raebareli and decided to vacate his seat in southern India.

Priyanka, who will fight from Wayanad in a by-poll that will be announced later, said, she is not nervous. “I am very happy. I won’t let them feel his absence. I will work as hard to make everyone happy. I will also help him in Raebareli. I have an old relation with Raebareli, and I have worked in both Amethi and Raebareli. I will help bhaiya (brother) in Raebareli,” Priyanka Gandhi said.

Rahul said that he is “confident she will win and she will be a good representative”. He also added that he will be a “frequent visitor” in Wayanad and both constituencies will have two members of Parliament.

Kharge said, “With Priyanka, people will derive courage. She had earlier given a slogan: ‘Main ladki hoon, lad sakti hu’. I want to thank her because during difficult times, she stood with us. She worked very hard and won back many seats in UP and the Amethi seat, which was lost, she got it back. she also worked very hard in Raebareli and won it.”

Party leaders added that it was the best solution as Rahul Gandhi, during his visit to Wayanad after the election, had said that his decision (on the seats) will make both Raebareli and Wayanad happy.

Congress leaders argued that Rahul’s decision was in sync with the larger goal of the Congress to improve its strike rate in northern India, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. While Rahul’s presence in Raebareli is no guarantee for party’s revival in the Hindi-belt, it brings a regional balance in the party where Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, general secretary organisation KC Venugopal and the chief spokesperson Jairam Ramesh hail from south India.

Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said, “This was on the expected lines. As soon as Rahul Gandhi decided to fight from Raebareli and won it, it was important for him to retain the seat. At the same time, he had to keep Wayanad voters happy and avoid any perception that he used Wayanad for his electoral gains. But I don’t see any correlation between Gandhi keeping Raebareli and the Congress’ revival. It is not going to help the Congress in UP.”

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