By Sushil Kutty
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s obsession with the Nehru-Gandhi family seems to be pathological. A Malayalam news outlet says if Rahul Gandhi contests from Wayanad, BJP candidate from Amethi Smriti Irani will also file papers from Wayanad. While this will be carrying things too far, it has the potential to make it even-sevens for Rahul Gandhi.
The more generous view is that Smriti Irani will run Rahul out of Amethi and it’s in part because of this fear that Rahul wants to fight from two constituencies. Congress state units of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have jumped in with offers, but Kerala took first right of rejection by identifying Wayanad as just the place to do the honours for the party president.
Wayanad is placed pretty. It shares borders with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It’s also ‘tribal’ in makeup, even if not in categorization. Besides, its greenery can give green-grocers envy, jealousy not being a tribal trait. Think Wayanad and think foliage. Forest. Above all, Wayanad is secure in the Congress safe! A Congress win from Wayanad is 100 per cent assured.
So, [email protected]# is the BJP thinking of fielding Smriti Irani from Wayanad for? Will one loss each disqualify both? The answer to the second question will probably put an end to this madness. Elections are not a joke, a comedy of errors. Irani cannot follow Rahul to the ends of the earth to push the point that Rahul shouldn’t have a chance in hell to be in the Lok Sabha.
Rahul contesting from Wayanad is all over the Malayalam media. State Congress stalwarts are thrilled. The amount of gushing going around is serious. Shashi Tharoor is talking of a 20-0 Congress sweep of Kerala. However, the party high command is still to confirm. A second constituency for Rahul Gandhi, this one from South India, is seen as great news for the party. Parliament without a Gandhi is unthinkable for the Congress.
To date, there have been 16 Lok Sabhas and every Lok Sabha has had at least one Nehru-Gandhi. That is not counting the mother-son duo of Maneka and Varun Gandhi. The 17th cannot likewise go unrepresented by a Nehru-Gandhi. But the BJP, while talking of a Congress-mukt Bharat these past five years, seems to be settling for a Nehru-Gandhi family-mukt India; all its energies focused on ensuring Rahul Gandhi doesn’t make it to the Lower House.
That said, it’s not as much the BJP as it is the LDF which is throwing tantrums. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan doesn’t like Rahul Gandhi choosing to contest from Wayanad or anywhere from Kerala. He says this shows the Congress is Modi’s b-team; that the real target of Rahul Gandhi are the Left parties. And, what if Rahul Gandhi becomes Prime Minister? Imagine! Kerala, finally, will get a Prime Minister it elects. And it will not be a Malayali! It will be a UDF PM! Simply unthinkable.
On top of that, invite Rahul Gandhi and it’ll be invitation to trouble. Wayanad will go Congress whether or not Rahul contests. But it’s the overall Rahul-effect which will spell bad bell-weather for the LDF. Tharoor is banking on Rahul contesting from Wayanad to make it third time from Thiruvananthapuram constituency, which elected him twice and may not a third time.
Of course, nobody in Congress is asking, “Why should Rahul contest from Wayanad at all?” The real reason. It’s not because a diet of Kerala Beef Fry will do Rahul a world of good. Everybody is studiously avoiding asking: “Is Rahul Gandhi running away from defeat in Amethi?”
Not necessarily. Rahul might still edge Irani out of the way in Amethi. Some boroughs remain in whichever pocket it fits best. Also, old habits die hard. That said, the Congress cannot take risks. It’s not just the BJP which wants the Gandhi family out of reckoning. It’s not that the SP-BSP combine couldn’t care less. Mayawati will smack lips at a Rahul-less Lower House with an opposition gathbandhan to take charge. Prime Minister Mayawati rolls well on the tongue.
So, Rahul Gandhi is doing a reverse-salmon: Heading downstream. The Congress stands to benefit plenty. Rahul Gandhi could maximize Congress victories in south India by contesting from a south India parliamentary constituency. The electorate in all of the south could vote in solidarity. Nobody says pipedreams do not come true. They do, too. (IPA Service)