The election battlefield in Kerala has been transformed with a single move: Rahul Gandhi’s candidature. This is the first time that a Congress President has handpicked a seat in the state to contest from. This has altogether changed the picture of the fight, something that even Congress rivals would silently admit to. It is believed that the decision have an impact in the whole of south India giving a big boost to party leaders as well as workers.
Soon after the decision was announced by Congress veteran AK Antony, CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was for the Congress to think what their priority was.
There were rumours that Yechury had intervened to make Rahul rethink on the decision to contest from Kerala. In a Meet the Press event organised by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists in Thiruvananthapuram, Yechury denied the allegation and reiterated the stand that the priority of the Left parties was to defeat the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. Though he exuded confidence that the Left would win 20 out of 20 seats in the state, he evaded the question whether this implied that Rahul will also be defeated.
“Let the Congress decide what their priority is. Here in Kerala, the Congress will contest against the Left. Kerala people have shown maturity in the past and they will show it again. The Kerala electorate voted emphatically for the Left in 2004 and it won in 18 seats. Whenever there was a need for an alternative, Kerala people voted for the Left. This time it will be 20 out of 20,” Yechury said.
When asked if the Left would change its candidate in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s candidature, Yechury said that it was for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala to decide but normally once a candidate was announced there wouldn’t be a change.
CPI’s PP Suneer is the LDF candidate in Wayanad.
“By coming here and fighting the LDF, what’s the message they are sending? It’s for them to decide. Nowadays it has become a practice for people to contest from more than one seat. Every political party has the right to decide its candidates,” he added.
Yechury also said that in Indian politics nothing can be ruled out and that he was confident that a secular front will be formed post-election, as has happened many times in the past.
No change in Left candidate
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the Left is strong enough to face anyone and will try to defeat Rahul Gandhi. “The contest is against the Left. There are other regions where the BJP is in the fray. When he comes to Kerala, it could be viewed only as a fight against the Left. But we don’t have any apprehensions. Changing the Left candidate in Wayanad is not in our discussion,” he said.
“There was a move for a Congress-IUML-BJP alliance in many parts of the state and rumours that some leaders would leave the Congress were strong. Some Congress leaders even took a stand similar to that of the BJP leaders in several issues in the state. This all should be read along with Rahul Gandhi’s candidature,” Pinarayi said.
CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan flayed the decision saying that Rahul is standing in Kerala as the party is afraid that he will be defeated in Amethi. “How he can lead a front against the BJP when he is not even confident of winning from his own constituency? The Left will show its strength to Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad,” he said.
PP Suneer reacted saying that Wayanad will be Rahul Gandhi’s Waterloo. “The decision is a betrayal of the people. By contesting from Wayanad, he is making democratic and secular forces disappointed. We will strengthen our campaign,” he said.
However Congress leader T Siddique, the candidate chosen earlier for the seat and who had even started campaigning, said that the move was a surgical strike by the Congress against the BJP and the Left.
BJP State President PS Sreedharan Pillai said the candidature was a sign of the vulnerability of the Congress. “It is better for the AICC leadership to commit suicide than depend on the Muslim League to win,” he said.
The northern constituency is one of the seats in which the Indian Union Muslim League, Congress’s ally in the UDF, has strong influence in certain regions.
IUML leader and candidate in Malappuram, PK Kunhalikutty, said that there will be a UDF wave in Kerala due to Rahul’s arrival. His party colleague and candidate in Ponnani, ET Mohammed Basheer, said that he was happy that Kerala has got the chance to make the future Prime Minister win.
Meanwhile BJP’s ally in the NDA Bharath Dharma Jana Sena’s leader Thushar Vellappally said that they were ready to give the seat to the BJP. The Wayanad seat was allotted to the BDJS and it had declared Paily Vathiattu as its candidate.