LS POLLS: Yes to Wayanad; Rahul Gandhi to enter LS fray in Kerala, apart from Amethi


NEW DELHI: Congress President Rahul Gandhi will contest the Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad. The announcement was made by Congress Working Committee Member and former defence minister AK Antony here this morning. Suspense continued for several days before Rahul Gandhi finally made up his mind to fight the polls from Wayanad, alongside Amethi, his main political turf in eastern Uttar Pradesh. 

This is the first time that a national-level leader from the North is contesting a Lok Sabha poll from Kerala. Rahul Gandhi had been “invited” from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu too this time for contest, after word came from the high command that Rahul Gandhi might contest a seat from the South. A reason for this is, Amethi is no more a very safe seat.

However, the Congress will project Rahul’s poll fight from Kerala as a symbolic fight against the BJP’s and its central government’s “step-motherly” treatment to the South, and attempts at “under-cutting” the culture and traditions of the South. 

Antony said Wayanad is at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, and the impact of Rahul’s fight from Wayanad will be felt in all the southern districts. 

Wayanad is a tribal-dominated area, with equally strong Muslim presence. The Muslims are mostly with the Muslim League and Congress, while tribals are largely with the CPI-LDF. This is one of the few areas in Kerala where the CPI has considerable influence, and hence its candidate PP Muneer, a Muslim, is contesting the seat this time.

Wayanad Lok Sabha seat was held in the outgoing Lok Sabha by Congress-UDF member MI Shanawaz, who passed away some time ago, and since then the seat was lying vacant. 

Perceptions are that the Muslim leadership in Kerala is more eager than the Congress to defeat the BJP and Narendra Modi in this polls. In 2014, they were not as resolute because they did not foresee a BJP-Modi victory at the polls. 

As with Muslims, Christians in Kerala are also not favourably disposed to the BJP, despite the BJP sending out several olive branches to Christians in the form of making Alphons Kannanthanam a Union minister, even as the saffron party did not give any such chance to its main support base, the Hindus in Kerala — split between Ezhavas-Thiyyas, forming 24 per cent of the population, Nairs-Nambiars forming 12 per cent and SC-STs forming 10 per cent. 

Rahul Gandhi and the Congress see an opportunity in Wayanad because of the strong Muslim and tribal presence there. Wooing them is easier for the Congress, compared to other communities. 

The BJP had given the Wayanad seat to its ally, the Bharat Dharama Jana Sena floated by an Ezhava leader. BDJS is an ally of the NDA in the state, but now the BJP is likely to take over the constituency and field a prominent face from the BJP itself, to give a national appeal to the fight in view of Rahul Gandhi’s presence in Wayanad for the contest. 

The name of prominent Malayalam super star and BJP nominated MP, Suresh Gopi, is among the possibilities under consideration. IHN-NN

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