Lok Sabha elections: ‘Won’t say a word against CPM’: Rahul Gandhi after filing nomination in Wayanad
Sister Priyanka Gandhi by his side, Congress president Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination from Kerala’s Wayanad Lok Sabha seat on Thursday. Gandhi, who held a road show soon after, later explained his decision to contest from two seats instead of sticking to just home turf Amethi, underlining that the move was designed to send a message of unity.
Gandhi agreed to fight the Lok Sabha elections from the Kerala district that also borders Karnataka and Tamil Nadu following a series of requests from state leaders and an assessment in the Congress that it would help the party not just in Kerala, but other southern states too.
As he reached Wayanad earlier in the day, Gandhi received a rousing welcome by party workers. But Kerala’s ruling Left has been fuming over Rahul Gandhi’s choice. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had reacted to the decision to imply that the Congress “does not consider the BJP as its real enemy”.
Rahul Gandhi attempted to reach out to him and other Left leaders who were riled by his choice.
For one, Gandhi insisted that he wouldn’t say a word against the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government during his campaign.
“I understand that the CPI (M) has to fight me. But I am not going to say a word against the CPI (M). I am here to send a message of unity,” Gandhi told reporters shortly after filing his nomination papers.
Gandhi already has to counter a concerted effort by the BJP to project his choice of a second seat as a sign of weakness in Amethi where he is pitted against Union Minister Smriti Irani.
WATCH: Rahul vs Smriti: Amethi adversaries face off over Gandhi’s Wayanad move
Smriti Irani had lost the Amethi election in 2014 but had considerably narrowed the margin. Over the last five years, she has also nurtured the constituency and headed to the Uttar Pradesh district around the same time that Gandhi was in Wayanad, his second seat. She accused the three-time Congress MP of “betraying Amethi” and dumping it for Wayanad after using the seat to enjoy power for 15 years.
“Amethi won’t tolerate this deceit, insult and injustice,” Smriti Irani declared and advised people in Kerala Wayanad’s to look at the ‘lack of development’ in Amethi.
A party bastion 450 km north of state capital Thiruvananthapuram, Wayanad shares the borders with two states - Karnataka and Tamil Nadu - and Congress leaders here feel that Gandhi’s presence will lift Congress’s prospects in the two neighboring states also. A relatively new seat, it was carved out from Malappuram and Kozhikode during the delimitation exercise of 2008.
In the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress candidate late MI Shanavas had emerged victorious from here. In 2009, his victory margin was 1,53, 439 but in 2014 it came down to just 20,870. The seat is vacant now after Shanavas died six months ago. A favourite getaway, it is also famous for its spices, especially black pepper.
The constituency has seven assembly seats and has a sizeable number of SC/ST and minority community voters.