Debate over Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad contest intensifies

Brinda Karat asks the Congress to ponder on what message it will convey if the former party chief seeks re-election from the seat

February 28, 2024 02:24 am | Updated 07:26 am IST - New Delhi

Rahul Gandhi attends a District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee meeting at Kalpetta in Wayanad district. File photo: Special Arrangement

Rahul Gandhi attends a District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee meeting at Kalpetta in Wayanad district. File photo: Special Arrangement

Communist Party of India Annie Raja’s candidature from Wayanad has once again ignited the debate on whether Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should seek a re-election from the seat, where he faces a friendly party, or actually take the battle to the BJP.

CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat questioned the “message” that such a contest in Wayanad would deliver at a time when all the Opposition parties are working on an anti-BJP campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha election. “The question here is not whether it is the right thing or wrong thing, that is for the Congress to decide. Our limited point here is that you (the Congress) are saying that you are fighting against the BJP, but the seat that you have picked, you will contest against a CPI candidate. Congress needs to decide what message they want to deliver by doing so,” Ms. Karat said.

Lobbing the ball right back at the Left, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, asked why the Left was taking on the Congress in parts of Kerala where the BJP was strong.

Mr. Tharoor said, “For example, in my own constituency, BJP came second in the last two elections. Yet a significant portion of the anti-BJP vote is taken by the third-placed Communist candidate. If it’s okay for them to oppose me in Thiruvananthapuram, why can’t Rahul Gandhi oppose them in Wayanad?”

He also reiterated that the seat-sharing deal for the INDIA bloc was always dependent on the peculiarities of each state. “The Left has no desire to cooperate with us in Kerala, whereas just next door in Tamil Nadu, the CPI(M), the CPI, the Muslim League, the Congress and the DMK are all amicably together. Reality does vary from State to State,” Mr. Tharoor added.

The other INDIA parties are largely keeping mum on the issue. Top leaders of at least five INDIA parties declined to comment on the issue. Ms. Raja, on her part, has taken a careful stance refraining from attacking the Congress. “It is for the Congress to decide on who they want to field from where. We, as an independent party, also took a decision. This is not the first time Rahul Gandhi will be facing a CPI candidate, he did it in 2019 too. And whether this adversely impacts the INDIA bloc’s campaign against the BJP is for the Congress to answer and not us,” she said.

Meanwhile, both Karnataka and Telangana Congress leaders have publicly invited Mr. Gandhi to contest from their respective States. Mr. Gandhi’s office has not openly declined the offer.

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