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WILL RAHUL GANDHI CONTEST FROM UTTAR PRADESH?

At the time of writing the Congress Party had not yet announced its candidates for Amethi and Rae Bareli. The two constituencies are in the news, since they are considered the Gandhi family bastions, though currently it is BJP’s Smriti Irani who is the sitting MP from Amethi. She has since challenged Rahul Gandhi to […]

At the time of writing the Congress Party had not yet announced its candidates for Amethi and Rae Bareli. The two constituencies are in the news, since they are considered the Gandhi family bastions, though currently it is BJP’s Smriti Irani who is the sitting MP from Amethi. She has since challenged Rahul Gandhi to contest from Amethi and wrest his stronghold back from her. The Congress Election Committee as well as the party workers are keen to seee Rahul take up this challenge & contest from Amethi while they want Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to contest her debut election from Rae Bareli. Of the two, the latter is a safer bet since the constituency is still with the Congress, with Sonia Gandhi as the sitting MP. However, Congress sources claim that in all probability Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will not be contesting the Lok Sabha. The reason cited is not sibling rivalry as much as the fact that Rahul is not keen to have all three members of his family in the parliament at the same time as that would endorse the charge of ‘parivar-vaad’ that the BJP is levelling against the Congress.

However will Rahul take the plunge from Amethi - or even Rae Bareli? The party’s ally in the state, Akhilesh Yadav is all for both Rahul and Priyanka taking the plunge for as he told the media, each seat is important and its crucial for the workers to see the leaders lead from the front. This is one reason why Akhilesh himself is contesting from Kannauj. Moreover, if party workers are right, then the ground in Amethi is ready for a takeover. There is an anti incumbency against Smriti they claim and Rahul should take up her challenge and win back his constituency. But what after that, ask the naysayers. Will Rahul give up Amethi or Waynard, for the state of Kerala has been the Congress party’s strongest backbone in the Modi Era ? The wise men and women, who are pushing for Rahul to contest from Amethi have an answer to this as well, for they point out that should Rahul win both the constituencies of Amethi and Waynard, then he could give up Waynard in favour of Priyanka and she could contest the bypolls from there.

Currently, all this is in the realm of speculation for no one knows the answer except the Gandhi family. However we are told that the announcement would be made on 1st May (three days before the nomination date ends). Jairam Ramesh, the all powerful general secretary incharge of communications has told the media that the CEC and the party workers have asked Rahul and Priyanka to contest the polls. Can the siblings ignore this request by the rest of the party? Because Rahul always states that he would do whatever the Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge desires.

Kharge too is telling the media to wait for the announcement of the candidates as there will be a `surprise’ there. Could Kharge himself be contesting from Rae Bareli, which is not just a Gandhi family bastion but also a seat where Congress Presidents contest from (though these are only Gandhi family members who became Congress Presidents for neither Sitaram Kesri nor Narasimha Rao have contested from here). Another speculation doing the rounds is that since Rae Bareli is a family bastion from where not only have Feroze Gandhi, Indira and Sonia Gandhi contested but so have family members and close friends such as Sheila Kaul, Arun Nehru and Satish Sharma. Given this criteria, the name of one of Sheila Kaul’s grandsons, Ashish Kaul is also doing the rounds.

Then of course there are the naysayers who point out that currently the narrative is one of Rahul vs Modi. Why should he downgrade himself to a Rahul Vs Smriti optics which is what will happen if he contests from Amethi. And if he bypasses Amethi and contests from Rae Bareli, well then, that would give Smriti Irani bragging rights (not that she needs it) to claim that Rahul was scared to take up her challenge. Of course there are other compulsions at play than just Smriti Irani’s ego. In these elections, Rahul has emerged as the pan India campaigner and whether they like it or not he is now the tallest leader in the INDIA block. It is also the Congress that is driving the opposition’s narrative against the BJP.

In the end, it’s not an easy call to make because there are pros and cons on both sides. On balance, Akhilesh Yadav’s advice seems to be the most pragmatic : to give a good fight the leader has to lead from the front. Will Rahul Gandhi pick up the mantle in Uttar Pradesh?

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