Editorial: Rahul Gandhi In Raebareli – Masterstroke Or Not?

Editorial: Rahul Gandhi In Raebareli – Masterstroke Or Not?

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, May 03, 2024, 10:08 PM IST
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Rahul Gandhi | File Pic

With Congress leader and Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi finally jumping into the electoral fray from Raebareli on Friday, the long and tiring Lok Sabha election got a twist in the tale. Defeated by BJP’s Smriti Irani in 2019, Gandhi represented Wayanad, Kerala, in the last Lok Sabha. Raebareli was represented by Sonia Gandhi which she won in the last election but has since moved to the Rajya Sabha. Raebareli is as much or more a Gandhi family bastion as Amethi having returned a Congress candidate, including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in 17 of the 20 elections held since independence. Raebareli will welcome and handsomely vote for Rahul Gandhi, the Congress reckons.

This move can be a masterstroke to take on the increasingly shrill BJP at the macro level by showing that Rahul Gandhi will not shy away from a contest in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, stymie the belligerent and overbearing Irani in Amethi whose campaign point has been stolen and who has been left to contest against a non-star candidate of the Congress, and upset the BJP’s calculations and campaign strategy. If the Congress plays its cards right, Gandhi’s decision to contest from Raebareli can even re-energise the party organisation as well as the INDIA bloc, and give it a sense of purpose in an election that seemed to be slipping away from its hands. If he loses here, it will be the breaking of the Gandhi link with the pocket borough.

However, if the BJP can outsmart this move, through means fair and foul as it is wont to, then the Gandhis will have to lick their wounds and the Congress party’s morale will sink even lower than it has been since 2014. Gandhi’s move is already being framed in terms of a loser running away from Amethi. A lot, therefore, depends on how the Congress and the Gandhis — given that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been deeply involved in the UP campaign and has been lighting up the scene with her speeches — make this work. In Wayanad, where voting has already taken place, Rahul Gandhi was pitted against CPI leader Annie Raja and state BJP president K. Surendran. If elected from both the seats, he will have to give up one — both constituencies will show some hurt when that happens unless his sister steps in for a bypoll in Raebareli.

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