In a significant move, the Congress today announced that its president Rahul Gandhi, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha for three consecutive terms from the family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, would contest the coming Parliamentary elections from Wayanad in Kerala, too.
The decision was announced by senior Congress leader A. K. Antony, who hails from Kerala, and party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who said it was taken in order to respect the several requests from Congress workers and allies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka that Gandhi contest from a seat in South India, apart from Amethi.
Antony said that the choice of Wayanad constituency, uniquely located at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, would, in a way, honour the wishes of the party's supporters in all three states.
"All of us are together here today to inform you about one of the happiest news," the former Defence Minister said.
He said the requests received from the three states had been considered by senior leaders of the party who then advised Gandhi that it would not be correct on his party to ignore such sentiments and that he must accept the demands.
"Finally, he has given his consent. I am happy to inform you that Rahulji will contest from Wayanad in Kerala also," he said.
Surjewala said Gandhi had always stressed that Amethi is his "karmabhoomi". "He is not just an elected representative from Amethi, he is a part of the Amethi family," he said.
Asked about the BJP's and its Amethi candidate Smriti Irani's remarks that Gandhi had opted to contest from a second constituency because he was scared of losing from Amethi, Surjewala said whether then Gujarat Chief Minister and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to contest from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh as well as Vadodara in Gujarat had been taken because of he was afraid of losing in his home state.
He said it would be better if the BJP, instead of indulging in such immature politics, concentrated on the real issues facing the people and the country. He also said Union Minister Irani, who had lost to Gandhi in 2014 and from Chandni Chowk in Delhi in 2009, would record a "hat-trick" of defeats this time.
Surjewala said Gandhi's decision to contest from South India also was a strong message to the people of the region that they and their way of life mattered to the Congress and the entire country. He said it was also a "befitting response" to those who sought to divide the nation on the basis of religion, caste, community, region, language, and so on.
Gandhi, who has been representing Amethi in the Lok Sabha since 2004, won the seat by a reduced margin in the last elections in 2014 against Irani.
Asked which seat Gandhi will retain if he wins both in Amethi and Wayanad, Surjewala said that when the Congress forms a government following the polls, the party president will represent the entire country.
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