Why is Priyanka Gandhi contesting from Wayanad, there is a big reason behind this

Ananya Shroff
6 Min Read

New Delhi: On June 17, when Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge announced the decision regarding the Lok Sabha seats of Rae Bareli and Wayanad, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, while talking to journalists, said that she will not let the people of Wayanad feel the absence of Rahul Gandhi. It is possible that at that time Priyanka remembered the day of 1999, when her mother Sonia Gandhi was entering electoral politics. While filing nomination from Bellary seat of Karnataka, Sonia Gandhi had told the journalists that 'I am contesting from Bellary, South India has always been dear to my mother-in-law.' Now Priyanka is in the same role, she will contest the by-election from Wayanad, one end of the South. However, the message behind this decision is not only emotional, but also practical. Two signals are clearly visible in this decision of Congress. With the presence of Rahul Gandhi in the stronghold of North India, Congress will try to regain its lost ground, while Priyanka will strengthen the party's prospects in the South. It is not that Congress has understood the importance of Mission South only after the election results. In fact, its role had started taking shape even before the Lok Sabha elections.

The South is too far for the BJP

While leaving the Wayanad seat, Rahul Gandhi had said that he has an emotional attachment with this place. The people of Wayanad had sent him to the Lok Sabha after he lost from Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. His candidature in that election has also been linked to the clean sweep performance of the Congress-led UDF. This time too, this front has won 18 out of 20 seats. On the other hand, the BJP's strategy of focusing completely on the South did not prove to be effective for it. PM Modi worked hard in states like Tamil Nadu, but the BJP's relief performance was seen only in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Congress already knew that hard work in the South can bring results for it, which are not possible in North India. Therefore, Congress's focus was on the South even before the elections. There is a reason for this, last time Congress contested a total of 423 seats across the country, out of which it won 52 seats. More than half of these (30) seats came from the South. This time Congress fielded candidates on 94 out of 130 seats in the South and won 42 of them. Congress has got 8 seats in Telangana, which is five more than last time. The party running the government in Karnataka has got 9 seats this time as compared to one seat in the 2019 elections. However, Congress' performance in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh was disappointing. Concern has also been raised at the level of the party high command regarding this. Within two weeks of the elections, Congress President Kharge had met state unit president YS Sharmila. Kharge said that work will be done towards strengthening the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. Obviously, the Congress does not want to make Andhra Pradesh a weak link in its Mission South.

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Priyanka, who has been active in politics for a long time, will contest her first election from Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala. Priyanka is not a new face for the people of Wayanad. During the election campaign there, she had held several rallies for Rahul Gandhi. Assembly elections are to be held in Kerala after two years, so the Congress will definitely try to turn the anti-incumbency atmosphere against CM Vijayan in its favor. But the biggest challenge for the Congress there is to stop the growing support base of the BJP. The pattern of the BJP has been that it makes a dent in one seat and then it keeps expanding. The 1998 West Bengal election is an example of this. Therefore, it is also important that the Congress stands strongly there. Priyanka contesting from Wayanad can be an important part of this strategy.

Congress' association with the South is not new

However, the connection between the south and the Gandhi family is not new. The by-election held on the Chikmagalur seat after the Emergency proved to be very important in terms of Indira Gandhi's political career. The slogan 'Ek Sherni Sau Langur, Chikmagalur, Chikmagalur' is also recorded in the history books. The election contest between Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj from Bellary in Karnataka in 1999 was also very famous. Congress had searched for this seat as a safe seat for Sonia Gandhi. Sushma Swaraj gave a tough fight to Sonia Gandhi, but Sonia won amid the echo of the slogan of Desh Ki Beti and Swadeshi Bahu.

Sonia gave up Bellary seat to retain Amethi, but the trust on the South for a safe seat remained intact. In fact, the South has never disappointed the Congress party. Priyanka's candidature is an attempt by the Congress to indicate that its trust in the South remains intact.

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