Sophie’s Choice: What will Rahul Gandhi do if he wins from Rae Bareli and Wayanad

Sonia Gandhi's campaign remarks suggested that Rahul may retain Rae Bareli

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | PTI Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | PTI

Rae Bareli has voted in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The choice was between former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and BJP's Dinesh Pratap Singh. In the Gandhi family bastion, the Congress' pitch was that Rahul Gandhi had to be made victorious with a record margin. And a question that loomed large was whether, in the event of a win in both Rae Bareli and Wayanad, which seat would he choose to represent in Parliament.

At a public rally in Rae Bareli on May 17, which marked the culmination of the Congress' campaign in the constituency, former party president Sonia Gandhi, who had held the seat for the last 20 years and has now moved on to the Rajya Sabha, made an emotional appeal to the voters. She said she was handing over her son to the constituency and appealed to them to take care of him just as they had cared for her. She also said Rahul Gandhi would not disappoint them.

Sonia's statement suggested that Rahul Gandhi might choose to be a Member of Parliament from Rae Bareli. However, the local party leaders and workers and even the people of the area have discussed the possibility of Rahul Gandhi choosing Wayanad. The general feeling is that if he were to choose the southern seat, it would not amount to a betrayal of the sentiment of Rae Bareli voters.

Shilu Singh Chauhan, a local party worker, has actively campaigned for Rahul in Rae Bareli. She is confident he will win by no less than four lakh votes. And to a question over whether she is confident he will choose Rae Bareli over Wayanad, her prompt answer was, “Of course, he will not leave Wayanad.”

And when further probed whether she would feel hurt if Rahul chose Wayanad over Rae Bareli, she said, “Priyanka Didi sambhalengi”. There is a widespread feeling in the constituency that if Rahul Gandhi chooses Wayanad, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has for a long time looked after Amethi and Rae Bareli on behalf of her brother and mother, respectively, would contest the bye-election from Rae Bareli. She has an extremely strong connect with the local party organisation in both Amethi and Rae Bareli. In these elections, she has micromanaged the campaign in the two seats and has been on the campaign trail from morning till late at night for two weeks straight.

Priyanka Gandhi has maintained a silence on the issue of whether she is ready to contest a bye-election from either Rae Bareli or Wayanad. In response to media queries, she has been non-committal and said it is an issue that will be dealt with when the time comes.

Rahul's name as the party's candidate from Rae Bareli was announced on May 3, post the election in Wayanad, which voted on April 26. It was expected that the Gandhi family would not let go of its connect with the two seats. However, it was initially expected that Rahul Gandhi would contest from Amethi, his original Lok Sabha seat which he held from 2004 to 2019 when he was defeated by BJP's Smriti Irani. And the general expectation was that Priyanka would step in in Rae Bareli.

“We are not unhappy that Rahul did not contest from Amethi. We understand that this is electoral strategy. And if Rahul goes to Wayanad, Priyanka will be here. So it is not a problem,” said Subodh Tiwari, a lawyer in Amethi.

However, there is another view on the issue as well. It is felt that Rahul could opt to stay in Rae Bareli because it would provide him with a perch in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. “Rahul Gandhi will not leave Rae Bareli. It is important for him to have a presence in UP,” said Shambhu Pasi, a shopkeeper in Sareni area of the constituency.

It will be interesting to see which constituency Rahul keeps if he wins from both Wayanad and Rae Bareli and also who steps in for him in the seat he vacates.  

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