Rahul to hold fort in Hindi heartland, Priyanka to reaffirm south's prominence

Gandhi family will have three members in Parliament if Priyanka wins from Wayanad

Priyanka Gandhi Priyanka Gandhi waves at voters in Wayanad | Jithin Joel Haarim/Manorama

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday ended the suspense over which of the two Lok Sabha seats – Rae Bareli or Wayanad – he would retain. He has opted for the former, the Gandhi family stronghold in Uttar Pradesh. 

The other important aspect of his decision is that his sister, AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will make her long-awaited electoral debut from the seat in Kerala.

The main takeaway of Rahul's decision to retain Rae Bareli is that the Congress is keen to build on the momentum of the party's improved performance in the Hindi heartland in the Lok Sabha elections. The party's alliance with Samajwadi Party clicked in Uttar Pradesh and the Bharatiya Janata Party was reduced to 33 seats in the electorally crucial state. The INDI Alliance won 43 seats in the state, with the Congress winning six out of the 17 it contested and exacting sweet revenge in Amethi where Gandhi family confidant K L Sharma defeated BJP's Smriti Irani. The Congress also displayed an improved performance in the other Hindi belt states such as Rajasthan, Haryana and Bihar.

FULL REPORT | Rahul Gandhi retains Rae Bareli, Priyanka to contest from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat

The Congress would be keen to build on the perceived anti-BJP sentiment in UP in its effort to recover lost ground in UP. In the Assembly elections in 2022, despite a spirited campaign by Priyanka, the party had failed miserably to make a mark electorally in the state, winning just two seats.

It is felt within the Congress that in view of the party's enhanced presence in the Lok Sabha, it would be apt that Rahul, who has cemented his position as the main challenger of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, enters the house as a representative of a seat in UP, which is electorally the most significant state.

The other half of the decision is Priyanka's much-anticipated electoral debut. She had taken the political plunge in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 when she was brought in as AICC General Secretary and was given the charge of UP. She was amongst the top three campaigners for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls this time along with party president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul. Her campaign in Rae Bareli and Amethi is viewed as having contributed tremendously to not just the party winning the two seats but also reverberating in the rest of UP and beyond. 

Contesting the bypoll from Wayanad will mark a major milestone in the growth in Priyanka's stature as a political leader. With Priyanka expected to win from Wayanad, the Gandhi family will have three members in Parliament. Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi is now a member of the Rajya Sabha.

The Gandhi family is keen to not be seen as abandoning Wayanad, which stood by Rahul when he was in trouble in Amethi and in fact lost the seat in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Also, Rahul's candidature from Wayanad in 2019 is seen as having helped the Congress-led United Democratic Front score a near sweep of Kerala then. With Rahul as an MP from Rae Bareli and Priyanka representing Wayanad, the Congress is keen to convey the message that while the party wants to improve its prospects in the north, it gives the southern states equal importance.

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