Congress president Rahul Gandhi will contest from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat in Kerala apart from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Announcing the decision at a news conference at the party headquarters in Delhi on Sunday, senior Congress leader AK Antony said Rahul Gandhi has accepted the demands of thousands of workers from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to contest from a second seat in south India.
“There were many considerations while selecting Wayanad and the foremost one was that it is a tri-junction and borders both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” he said.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “While Amethi remains the karmabhoomi of Rahul Gandhi, he has respected the sentiments of the thousands of workers from south India by accepting to contest from Wayanad in Kerala.”
Wayanad, a rural district, has been a Congress stronghold. The constituency was carved out from Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur during the restructuring of constituencies in 2008.
The ruling Left Democratic Front has fielded CPI’s PP Suneer and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has left the seat for BDJS (Bhartiya Dharma Jana Sangam, an outfit being floated by backward Ezhava community).
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran had earlier said there was no question of withdrawing the party candidate.
Pressure had been building up on Rahul Gandhi to contest from south India apart from Amethi to boost the morale of the cadre with leaders from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala urging him to select a second seat of his choice in their respective states.
The Congress boss was given the option of Bangalore Central, Bidar and Mysore from Karnataka, Kanyakumari and Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala.
With this decision, Rahul Gandhi becomes the third member of the Gandhi family to select a second seat from south India. Prior to him, his grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had contested from Chikmagalur in Karnataka in 1978 while his mother and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi fought from Bellary in the same state in 1998.
Indira Gandhi had contested the Lok Sabha by-elections from Chikmagalur in 1978, a year after she was defeated by Raj Narain of Janata Party from Rae Bareli post the Emergency.
One of her loyalists, DB Chandre Gowda, had vacated the seat for her. The former Prime Minister defeated former chief minister and Janata Party candidate Veerendra Patil by a margin of more than 77,000 votes.
It was a turning point in Indira Gandhi’s career and the victory gave her a political rebirth and two years later she swept back to power in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, with the Congress winning 353 seats.
However, she contested from Rae Bareli this time and defeated the opposition candidate Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia and once again assumed the office of the Prime Minister.
Following the footsteps of her mother-in-law soon after joining the politics, Sonia Gandhi contested the 1999 Lok Sabha elections from two seats – Bellary in Karnataka and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
She defeated BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj from Bellary and Sanjay Singh from Amethi. Sonia Gandhi, however, chose to represent Amethi and gave up Bellary.
Out of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, 130 are in south India with 39 in Tamil Nadu, 28 in Karnataka, 25 in Andhra Pradesh, 20 in Kerala, 17 in Telangana and one in Puducherry.
While Congress has substantial presence in Karnataka and Kerala, it is in alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) but is weak in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
In the past several weeks, Kerala unit chief Mullapally Ramachandran, former chief minister Oommen Chandy and senior leader Ramesh Chennithala had urged Rahul Gandhi to contest from their state.
Similarly, Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao and former chief minister Siddaramaiah had formally invited Rahul Gandhi to contest from Karnataka.
From Tamil Nadu, state Congress chief KS Alagiri and senior leader Manickam Tagore, had made similar requests to Rahul Gandhi, saying he was first proposed as the next Prime Minister by DMK chief MK Stalin.