That the Rahul factor would work positively for the Congress and its allies in the Lok Sabha elections in Kerala had been a given before the polling.
But its role — the impact of Mr. Gandhi's contest in Wayanad — in the dream-like victory of the UDF has been beyond the imagination of the alliance. The huge winning margins of UDF candidates, especially in the Malabar region, owe to the Rahul factor, too. It impacted the outcome of the polls across most constituencies from Kasaragod to deep south.
Mr. Gandhi’s wildly unexpected entry into Wayanad, the week-long drama played non-stop on the media over the chances of his contesting, the anticipation whipped up among the masses all contributed to the building of the Rahul factor. The venomous criticism of the contest by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and several senior BJP leaders elevated the importance of the contest.
The knee-jerk reactions by LDF leaders soon after the announcement made by senior State Congress leaders that Mr. Gandhi would contest the Wayanad seat added to the building of the Rahul factor. (The LDF leaders had correctly foreseen the damage Mr. Gandhi's contest would wreak on the LDF's electoral fortunes, though they couched the fears in terms of a post-election alliance of the Congress and the Left parties.) Just a fortnight ahead of the polling, the Rahul factor had become a key point of the campaign agenda.
The Rahul factor could build up the hope that Mr. Gandhi could, in fact, become an alternative to Mr. Modi and that the Congress could realistically wrest power from the BJP. It was this that encouraged Muslim and Christian voters to flock to him and vote for the Congress. He became an icon for the minorities in the fight against fascism and despotism represented, in their views, by Mr. Modi. The large crowd Mr. Gandhi drew during his Wayanad campaign were a reflection of this hope.
The impact of Mr. Gandhi's contest in Wayanad was huge in forcing the Congress leadership, known for its internal feuds, to behave. This reflected in the unprecedented coordination, unity and planning within the Congress. The Congress had not run such a coordinated campaign in the recent times.
In the grassroots-level electioneering, the Rahul factor energised the cadres of the alliance partners, especially of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). In fact, in the Malabar region, the IUML was much ahead of the Congress in organising and conducting the electioneering. Many fringe Muslim parties supported the UDF because of their faith in Mr. Gandhi.
That the hope and faith have now turned sour is a different matter.