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Why did Rahul Gandhi go to Rae Bareli?

If Rahul Gandhi wins both Wayanad and Rae Bareli seats, which of the two will he retain? In this election, no other leader’s constituency generated as much curiosity as that of Rahul Gandhi over where else he will contest polls from in addition to Wayanad. There were discussions regarding Amethi, where Rahul Gandhi faced defeat […]

If Rahul Gandhi wins both Wayanad and Rae Bareli seats, which of the two will he retain?

In this election, no other leader’s constituency generated as much curiosity as that of Rahul Gandhi over where else he will contest polls from in addition to Wayanad. There were discussions regarding Amethi, where Rahul Gandhi faced defeat in the 2019 elections after representing the constituency as an MP for 15 years. The Gandhi family’s ties with Amethi are very old and strong. Sanjay Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha from Amethi in 1980, followed by Rajiv Gandhi three times, Sonia Gandhi once and Rahul Gandhi thrice.

However, the reason why Rahul Gandhi chose not to contest from Amethi this time remains unclear. Perhaps his advisors advised him against it, fearing a potential defeat. In my opinion, he should have still contested from Amethi, for it is believed that he would have emerged victorious there as well.

Congress has fielded Kishori Lal Sharma, a confidant of the Gandhi family, from Amethi. While many expected Priyanka Gandhi to fight the elections from Amethi, she has declared that she would campaign for Kishori Lal Sharma. In my opinion, Priyanka’s presence in the fray would have increased the chances of victory. However, since she is not in the race, Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Rae Bareli, another traditional stronghold of the family, indicates his confidence in that constituency. The historical ties of the Gandhi-Nehru family with Rae Bareli run deep. In the first and second Lok Sabha elections of the country, Feroze Gandhi was elected to Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli. Indira Gandhi won the election from this constituency thrice. Sonia Gandhi has also been representing Raebareli for four consecutive terms since 2004.

Rahul Gandhi filed nomination papers with great fanfare in Rae Bareli. Quite naturally, everyone watches him closely. A BJP leader sarcastically told me that Rahul Gandhi was saying that ED had frozen Congress’ bank account and the party does not have money even to buy train tickets. So, how could he afford a plane in which he arrived along with staunch Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot and K C Venugopal? Similarly, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra arrived on the second plane while Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge arrived on the third plane. Then the BJP leader also reminded me that none of them was present in Amethi to file Kishori Lal Sharma’s nomination papers! The BJP is always ready to seize any opportunity that comes its way and obviously so. The BJP leaders even claimed that Rahul Gandhi had ‘fled’ from Wayanad fearing defeat. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated that a formidable candidate has been fielded, making it difficult for Rahul Gandhi to secure a victory. However, reports suggest that Rahul Gandhi is set to win the Wayanad seat. Therefore, the pressing question is that if Rahul Gandhi wins both the seats, which one will he choose to retain? In my opinion, he will most likely retain Rae Bareli, the traditional stronghold of his family. He understands that without gaining a foothold in Uttar Pradesh, any aspiration of governing the nation would be futile.

In the realm of Indian politics today, Rahul Gandhi’s influence is undeniable. Despite not holding the post of party president, the Congress cannot function without him, and the same can be said for the ruling party BJP. Right from Prime Minister to other prominent leaders, nobody can complete his or her speech without mentioning Rahul Gandhi’s name.

Consistent efforts were made to brand him as ‘Pappu’. What I feel is if someone is so unworthy in your view, why do you mention his name time and again? Why not simply ignore him? However, it is impossible to ignore Rahul Gandhi. How can the contribution of Gandhi family in the freedom struggle, the nation building thereafter and the supreme sacrifices made by the family, be forgotten! L K Advani had once told me that we have political differences with the Congress but they are not our enemies, and we cannot ignore them completely.

Many people often comment on Rahul Gandhi’s attire and appearance too. They maintain that while Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi were quite modern in their choices, both of them started wearing traditional khadi attire associated with the Congress party once they entered politics. Sonia Gandhi even began wearing sarees. From that point onwards, they were never seen in modern clothing. However, Rahul Gandhi stands out as being extremely modern in his fashion sense, embracing the attire of the youth. He has broken away from tradition, perhaps to maintain his own unique identity. However, I firmly believe that clothing plays a significant role in the realm of politics. Another aspect that is often mentioned is that Rahul Gandhi’s nature is such that his close associates like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Milind Deora, K P Singh left him. The question is whether they left because of Rahul’s nature or they were feeling insecure? Or was the system around Rahul Gandhi suffocating them?

Many leaders have parted ways with Congress. Sonia Gandhi is currently unwell. Notwithstanding this, Rahul and Priyanka are fighting even as they are pitted against the formidable BJP bolstered by Narendra Modi. Modi’s leadership is charismatic. The party has seasoned players like Amit Shah, and Yogi Adityanath in UP. Even before the Congress could aim, their arrow hits the target. Rahul possesses the determination to triumph in the struggle but he does not have a team of fighters. I have stated on multiple occasions that a strong team or contingent cannot be assembled unless Congress is revitalised. The Congress leaders who win the elections do so on the strength of their own abilities. It is imperative to revitalise and strengthen Congress, but at the moment, it is not an easy challenge to accept.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

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