Wayanad doesn't disappoint Rahul Gandhi; Will Congress scion choose Kerala seat over Rae Bareli

The Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, where Rahul Gandhi won for the second time in a row, comprises three assembly constituencies each in the tribal district of Wayanad and the Muslim-dominated Malappuram, as well as one in Kozhikode district where Christians hold a significant vote base.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during an election campaign road show for the Lok Sabha polls, in Wayanad, Kerala, Monday, April 15, 2024.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during an election campaign road show for the Lok Sabha polls, in Wayanad, Kerala, Monday, April 15, 2024.

Wayanad (Kerala) | The Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, where Rahul Gandhi won for the second time in a row, comprises three assembly constituencies each in the tribal district of Wayanad and the Muslim-dominated Malappuram, as well as one in Kozhikode district where Christians hold a significant vote base.

Gandhi romped home with a margin of over 3.64 lakh votes against his nearest rival, Annie Raja of the CPI.

With the Congress scion winning handsomely from Rae Bareli as well, questions remain which constituency he will now forego, although he has said he has not taken a decision on which seat he will represent in the Lok Sabha.

Asked about which seat he would represent in Lok Sabha, Gandhi said on Tuesday, "I have won from both the seats and I want to wholeheartedly thank the voters of Rae Bareli and Wayanad. Now I have to decide which seat I will stay on, will discuss and then decide. Can't hold on to both the seats, but I haven't decided yet." "I am being asked whether I would remain the MP of Wayanad or Rae Bareli, I want to remain MP for both. Congratulations to all of you," the former Congress president had said.

The Congress-led UDF was always confident about the victory of their leader, widely perceived to be the Prime Ministerial candidate of the INDIA bloc, from their stronghold Wayanad in the polls held on April 26.

The BJP and the Left, who had fielded strong candidates to challenge Gandhi, claim he will abandon Wayanad if he wins from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, there was no confirmation until the completion of the second phase of the election, when Kerala voted for Lok Sabha polls, about his plans to contest from another seat in the country's northern region.

Senior CPI leader Annie Raja was the Left candidate from the constituency, while the BJP's state chief K Surendran was tasked with taking on Gandhi and Raja, both leaders of INDIA bloc partners.

Famous for its lush green hills, diverse cultural heritage, and significant tribal population, the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency has been a focal point of Indian politics since it gained national attention with Rahul Gandhi's candidacy in 2019.

The constituency, carved out in 2008 during the delimitation process, comprises seven assembly segments: Kalpetta, Sulthan Bathery, and Mananthavady in Wayanad district; Thiruvambady in Kozhikode; and Nilambur, Wandoor, and Eranad in Malappuram, each reflecting the diverse socio-economic fabric of the region.

Agriculture, the backbone of Wayanad's economy, faces numerous challenges, including fluctuating market prices and crop failures. The constituency is also grappling with issues related to tribal welfare, environmental conservation, and the need for robust infrastructure development.

While the UDF campaign focused on Rahul Gandhi's work in the constituency, highlighting his significant impact on Wayanad since his election in 2019 and his ability to bring a global perspective to local issues, the BJP and the Left countered it, alleging his long absence from the constituency and failure to address key issues affecting the people, including the human-animal conflict.

The Congress, however, argued that Gandhi had championed several initiatives aimed at improving the lives of people, particularly tribals and the poor, in his constituency.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi won the Wayanad seat with a significant margin of 4,31,770 votes over his nearest rival, P P Suneer of the CPI.

The voter turnout in the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency during the 2019 elections was 80.31 per cent. This time, 73.57 per cent of the voters cast their ballot.

The fierce battle in the constituency saw BJP leader Surendran raking up an issue surrounding the name of Sulthan Bathery town, associated with Tipu Sultan in the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency.

He suggested that the name should be changed, as the place was originally known as Ganapathivattom before the Mysore ruler's invasion of the Malabar region of Kerala two centuries ago. The Congress mocked him, saying, "Surendran can say anything." Rahul Gandhi's roadshow in Kalpetta on April 3 garnered national attention during the poll campaign.

It was visibly different from that of 2019 in the constituency when the green flags of Congress ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) outnumbered those of the Congress in the crowd.

This time, the flags were conspicuous by their absence, including those of the Congress.

The roadshow was attended by all major UDF partners, including the IUML, and their workers mostly displayed placards of Gandhi's image and his election symbol, the hand, to add color to the campaign.

Party workers also carried balloons in various colours instead of flags.

At the height of the election campaign in 2019, senior BJP leader Amit Shah had criticised Gandhi for contesting from the constituency in Kerala, remarking that during a procession in the area, it was difficult to discern whether it was India or Pakistan, alluding to the presence of IUML's green flags during the Congress leader's roadshow, a Congress source had said.

The source had added that the Congress might have chosen not to display flags during the event this time to avoid potential negative reactions from the BJP.

The CPI(M) had taken a dig at the Congress for not displaying its alliance partner Muslim League's green flags at the Gandhi roadshow, alleging that the decision was made considering its repercussions in North India.

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