Priyanka Gandhi’s electoral debut from Wayanad: Congress strategy decoded in 8 points

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's candidacy from Wayanad is part of the Congress's mission in the South. The grand old party hopes to leverage anti-incumbency in Kerala for the 2026 assembly polls and strengthen its presence.

Gulam Jeelani
Updated18 Jun 2024, 08:24 PM IST
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. The latter's candidature from Wayanad has to do with the Congress party’s plans in the south, especially Kerala.
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. The latter’s candidature from Wayanad has to do with the Congress party’s plans in the south, especially Kerala. (REUTERS)

It's official now. Rahul Gandhi has decided to retain the Raebareli seat and give up Wayanad. Rahul won both seats in the recently concluded Lok Sabha Elections 2024.

A candidate can contest elections from multiple seats in India. But one can represent only one seat at a time in Parliament. Since the Wayanad seat is vacant now, the Congress party had to field a new candidate to fight bypoll to be held soon.

The grand old party has decided to field Congress general secretary and Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from Wayanad. Both these announcements were made after the Congress party’s top leadership met at party president Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence in the national capital on Monday, June 17.

But why did Rahul Gandhi decide to retain Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh? And what does Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s electoral debut from Wayanad in Kerala mean for the Congress party?

These two decisions are seen by political analysts as strategic moves aimed at helping the party's presence in the country's north and south. The obvious target is future elections.

Raebareli's significance for Rahul Gandhi

Raebareli, one of the two Gandhi family bastions in Uttar Pradesh, was long represented by Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi. The Gandhi family has won 17 of 20 Lok Sabha elections held in Raebareli so far.

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The Congress has won back the other family bastion, Amethi, from the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Smriti Irani. The former Union minister lost to long-time Gandhi family loyalist KL Sharma. Coupled with Rahul's win in Raebareli, it has given back the Congress its firm base in Uttar Pradesh.

Congress Regaining Lost Ground

Looking at the recent Lok Sabha election results, the Congress is clearly regaining the lost ground in Uttar Pradesh where it won six of the 17 seats it contested. In 2019, the Congress had won only one seat – Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh. And in 2014, the party won two seats – Raebareli and Amethi. Understandably, after the positive results, the Congress would not want Rahul Gandhi to abandon Raebareli.

Rahul defeated the BJP's Dinesh Pratap Singh by a margin of 3,90,030 votes in Raebareli. In Wayanad, he defeated CPI candidate Annie Raja by 3,64,422 votes.

INDIA Bloc Aims

The other reason lies in the performance of the Congress party's INDIA bloc partner, the Samajwadi Party. The Akhilesh Yadav-led party won 37 Lok Sabha seats in UP. With 43 seats between two INDIA bloc parties, the BJP was reduced to just 33 seats, down from 62 it won of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2019.

Also Read: Always wanted to be in active politics but…: Robert Vadra after wife Priyanka Gandhi decided to contest from Wayanad

The Congress would want to keep the momentum in INDIA bloc's favour intact and try to regain some more ground ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2027. In the 2022 Assembly Elections, the Congress could win only two seats in the 403-member UP House. The Samajwadi Party won 111 seats as against 255 seats bagged by the BJP under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The Larger Picture

Looking at the larger picture, the Congress party, which has almost doubled its numbers in the Lok Sabha – from 52 in 2019 to 99 in 2024 – would hope to grow further nationally. And this cannot be possible without increasing its footprint in the states in the Hindi belt, including Uttar Pradesh.

Priyanka Gandhi from Wayanad

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been in politics since 1999 when she campaigned for her mother Sonia Gandhi against BJP candidate Arun Nehru in Amethi. But she has never contested elections. So, she will make her electoral debut from Wayanad whenever the Election Commission announces the dates.

Rahul Gandhi often talks about his emotional connection with Wayanad. And why not? It was Wayanad that rescued him in 2019. Rahul had contested from Wayanad and Amethi in 2019. He won Wayanad but lost to BJP's Smriti Irani in Amethi.

Mission South

Priyanka Vadra's candidature from Wayanad has to do with the Congress party’s plans in the south, especially Kerala. As things stand, unlike in the north where the BJP is dominant in states, the Congress already has a presence in governments in three states in the south. The party is in power in Karnataka and Telangana. It also rules Tamil Nadu with its ally, the DMK.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi claims people from Narendra Modi camp ‘in touch with us’: ‘Smallest disturbance can...’

Looking at Kerala assembly polls in the past, the results usually would swing between the Congress and the Left-led alliance every five years. The 2021 assembly election broke the trend, however. The CPIM-led LDF won a second consecutive term in the state.

Anti-incumbency Against LDF

The Congress is hoping that anti-incumbency against the LDF will help it in the 2026 Kerala Assembly polls. Clearly, a Gandhi family member in Wayanad is expected to help the Congress party’s election fortunes in the state.

In the Lok Sabha polls held recently, the Congress won 14 of the 20 seats in Kerala.

Liability or Asset?

Suppose Priyanka wins from Wayanad, as is being predicted since it’s considered a safe seat now for the Congress party, it will be the first time that three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family will be in Parliament at the same time.

Also Read: ‘Cong type of shamelessness’: Rajeev Chandrasekhar cries ‘dynasty imposition’ over Priyanka Gandhi's Wayanad candidacy

Rahul and Priyanka in the Lok Sabha and Sonia Gandhi, their mother, in the Rajya Sabha. This will be seen as the Congress party's attempt to convert the dynast jibe against the Gandhi family from top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, into an asset.

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First Published:18 Jun 2024, 08:24 PM IST
HomePoliticsNewsPriyanka Gandhi’s electoral debut from Wayanad: Congress strategy decoded in 8 points

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