• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Rahul Gandhi to retain Rae Bareli seat, sister Priyanka to contest Wayanad bypoll

The former president of India’s opposition Congress party won both Rae Bareli and Wayanad seats and would have to vacate one where a bypoll would be held to pick a new MP.

Indian National Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi (L) and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

INDIA’S opposition Congress party on Monday (17) made two major announcements over its decision on two parliamentary seats that its former president Rahul Gandhi won in this year’s general elections — Rae Bareli in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad in the southern state of Kerala.

It said that while Rahul will vacate Wayanad and retain his Rae Bareli seat, one of the family bastions of the Gandhi family, the central force of the Grand Old Party, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will contest the by-election in Wayanad. It will also mark the electoral debut of Priyanka who has so far looked after the party’s organisation-related aspects.

Rahul won the Wayanad seat by more than 364,000 votes against his nearest rival Annie Raja of the Communist Party, which was less than 431,000 votes — his winning margin in the 2019 parliamentary elections. The leader, who will turn 54 this week, was disqualified as a parliamentarian over a court verdict convicting him in a defamation case last year but was reinstated a few months later following an intervention by the Supreme Court of India.

Read: Mocked for a decade, Rahul Gandhi slows Modi juggernaut

In Rae Bareli, which Rahul and Priyanka’s mother Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party’s longest-serving president, vacated ahead of the election citing her health. She had won the seat five times, including a by-election in 2006, since 2004 and won it when the Narendra Modi wave swept Uttar Pradesh and several parts of India in the 2014 and 2019 elections. Rae Bareli was the only seat that the Congress could retain in the 2019 elections when Rahul also lost from Amethi, another bastion of the Gandhi family.

This year, Kishori Lal Sharma, known to be close to the family, defeated sitting MP and former Indian minister Smriti Irani from Amethi by more than 167,000 votes. Irani had defeated Rahul there in 2019.

Read: India election results: The big winners and losers

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge announced the decisions following a high-level meeting in New Delhi on Monday. He was flanked by the siblings as he made the announcement. The deadline for vacating the constituency is Tuesday (18).

“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,” Kharge said in Hindi.

India’s former prime minister Indira Gandhi, grandmother of Rahul and Priyanka, was elected from Rae Bareli in the past.

Speaking about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s agreeing to the idea of contesting from Wayanad, Kharge said jokingly, “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 also thanked Priyanka, two years younger to him, for the Congress’s success in Amethi, Raebareli and other constituencies.

Rahul expressed his gratitude for the people of Wayanad saying while his sister will contest the bypoll, he would visit the constituency frequently and fulfil the promises his party had made there.

He said the people of Wayanad stood by him at a difficult time and that choosing either one between Wayanad and Rae Bareli, with which he has an old connection, was not an easy decision.

Priyanka also said that they will be available in both constituencies. She also said that she was not nervous to contest the election.

The Congress won 99 seats in this year’s general elections, improving its performance by far compared to 2014 and 2019.

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