Congress President Rahul Gandhi is contesting from two seats – Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad in Kerala. In party bastion Amethi, he faces a tough challenge from Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Smriti Irani. In Wayanad, though, he may have an easier run.
Face-off in Amethi
Since the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance did not field a candidate in Amehti in Uttar Pradesh, it was a direct contest between Rahul Gandhi and Irani. The contest is expected to be close since Irani led an aggressive campaign. She has constantly accused the Congress president, who is the constituency’s sitting MP, of ignoring Amethi. Gandhi did not visit the constituency even on the day of polling, giving Irani the opportunity to repeat that the “missing MP” had betrayed residents.
Amethi has been a Congress party stronghold since its formation as a Lok Sabha constituency in 1967 election. Only twice has it elected non-Congress MPs. This is from where Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi fought their first Lok Sabha battles.
Rahul Gandhi won the seat easily in 2004 and 2009. In 2014, Rahul Gandhi received stiff competition from Irani but managed to defeat her by over 1 lakh votes, but his vote share was dented to as much as 46.71%, according to India Today. This was reportedly the lowest vote share by which a Congress candidate from the Gandhi family had won Amethi till date.
Amethi voted during the fifth phase on May 6. On polling day, Irani alleged that Congress workers were capturing booths in the constituency. Alerting the Election Commission, she shared a video of an old woman at a booth in Gujar Tola area of Gauriganj alleging that she had been forced to vote for the Congress.
The Congress, however, dismissed Irani’s allegations and said the BJP candidate was “looking for excuses” to justify her defeat. The Election Commission of India dismissed the allegations.
Wayanad, a strong seat
The Congress’ decision to field Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad in Kerala was a surprise for many, but the constituency is known to be a party bastion.
The decision did not go down well with the Left parties. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the party’s General Secretary Prakash Karat said Gandhi’s choice of the second seat indicated that the Congress’ priority was to fight the Left Democratic Front coalition that rules the state.
“It goes against Congress’ national commitment to fight BJP, as in Kerala it is Left Democratic Front which is the main force fighting BJP there,” Karat had said. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Gandhi should have picked a seat where he would be pitted against the BJP. The Left Democratic Front has fielded PP Suneer
of the Communist Party of India from the seat.
BJP National President Amit Shah had repeatedly accused Gandhi of fleeing to Kerala to seek a safe seat. “All of you know that this time Rahul Gandhi is done for in Amethi,” he claimed. “So he is going to Kerala in a bid to win on the politics of polarisation.”
After Gandhi announced his candidature from Wayanad, the BJP changed its nominee from the seat. Initially, the seat was allotted to Bharat Dharma Jana Sena candidate Paily Vathiattu. But Shah later announced that Thushar Vellappally of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena would be the National Democratic Alliance’s candidate.
Nomination papers row
Rahul Gandhi’s nomination papers were challenged both in Amethi and Wayanad.
Four people objected to his nomination papers in Amethi, alleging that there were discrepancies in the document. Dhruv Lal, one of the four people, claimed that Gandhi has declared himself a British citizen in the certificate of incorporation of a company registered in the United Kingdom. However, the returning officer in Amethi declared that the Congress president’s papers were valid.
In Wayanad, BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s candidate Thushar Vellappally wrote to Chief Election Commission Sunil Arora seeking review of Gandhi’s election affidavit. Vellappally’s objections, questioning Gandhi’s citizenship, were also dismissed.
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