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Rahul Gandhi to Retain Rae Bareli, Priyanka to Contest from Wayanad

Rahul Gandhi to Retain Rae Bareli, Priyanka to Contest from Wayanad

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 17: A day before the deadline, the Congress on Monday decided to ask the senior leader Rahul Gandhi to retain the Rae Bareli seat in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha and vacate Wayanad in Kerala from where the party will field his sister and the Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the by-election ending her long-awaited electoral debut.

Tuesday is the last day for taking a decision on retaining one of the two seats a candidate has won in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections, Mr Gandhi had contested from the two seats and won from both unlike in the last time when he was elected from Wayanad but was defeated in Amethi in UP.

Both the major announcements were made by the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge after a high-level meeting of the party on Monday evening. Flanked by the Gandhi siblings, Mr Kharge announced the party’s decision, “The party has decided that Rahul Gandhi should keep the Rae Bareli seat because it has been close to him and his family for generations. The people of the constituency and people in the Congress feel this will be good for the party as well. More importantly, he has received love from the people of Wayanad and people there want him to retain the seat. But the rules don’t allow this. So we have decided that Priyanka ji will contest from Wayanad,” he said in Hindi.

“Priyanka Gandhi had said ‘ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon’ (I am a girl, I can fight) and this ladki can fight from there (Wayanad) now,” he said to laughter as he went on to thank Ms Gandhi for the Congress’ success in Amethi, Rae Bareli and other constituencies.

Stating that choosing between the two constituencies was a “tough decision” for him, Mr Rahul Gandhi said he had emotional connection with both Rae Bareli and Wayanad and expressed his gratitude for the love has got from the people in the Kerala constituency while he was a Member of Parliament from there the past five years.

“Priyanka will contest from Wayanad, but I will also go there frequently and we will fulfil all the promises we made to the people there. I have an old connection with Rae Bareli and I am happy to represent them, but it wasn’t an easy decision. It was a tough one. The people of Wayanad stood with me and supported me. They gave me energy to fight in a very difficult time. I will be available for the people of Wayanad,” Mr Gandhi said.

“I am confident she (Priyanka) will win the election and she will be a very good representative. The people of Wayanad can think about it like this: They now have two MPs, one is my sister and the other is me. My doors are always open to you for the rest of my life and I love every person in Wayanad,” he added.

When Ms Gandhi was asked for a reaction, she said she was very happy and would not let the people of Wayanad feel her brother’s absence. “As he said, he will come many times with me. But I will work as hard and try to be a good representative. I have a very old connection with Rae Bareli and I have worked there for 20 years. That connection cannot break. I will help bhaiyya (big brother) in Rae Bareli and we will be available in both constituencies,” she said. Rahul Gandhi interjected and said both constituencies are getting two MPs.

Asked if she was nervous, Ms Gandhi said, “Not at all” and added that she would give Wayanad her “best.” “I am very happy to represent the people of Wayanad and all I’ll say is that I won’t let them feel his (Rahul Gandhi’s) absence. He said he will come frequently, but I will work just as hard and try to make everyone happy,” she said.

The other family bastion in Uttar Pradesh, Amethi, is already back in Congress hands, with long-time Gandhi family aide KL Sharma besting the BJP’s former Union minister Smriti Irani.

Rahul Gandhi had won both Rae Bareli and Wayanad by a margin of over 3 lakh votes. He won Rae Bareli by defeating BJP’s Dinesh Pratap Singh by a margin of 3,90,030 votes and had retained the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat with a margin of 3,64,422 votes over his nearest rival, Communist Party of India-Marxist candidate Annie Raja. BJP’s K Surendran had come third on the seat.

The Rae Bareli seat was earlier held by Sonia Gandhi since 2004 until she moved to the Rajya Sabha earlier this year. The Gandhi family bastion was earlier represented by Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother and former PM Indira Gandhi and her husband Feroze Gandhi.

Mr Surendran criticised Mr Gandhi’s decision to quit Wayanad. The “BJP’s prediction came true” he said and added, “the honest and lovable people of Kerala deserve better than to be exploited and abandoned.”




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