Congress Launches Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Wayanad, Aims to Strengthen Electoral Presence in Kerala

UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA - MARCH 27: Congress Party's Priyanka Gandhi campaigns on March 27, 2019 in Uttar Pradesh, India. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the sister of Rahul Gandhi and fourth generation scion of the famous Nehru-Gandhi family, was inducted into politics this year to campaign for India National Congress, the main opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Around 900 million people will be casting their ballots during India's general election, which is known to be the largest in the world and scheduled from 11 April to 19 May.(Photo by Atul Loke/ Getty Images)

Mohammed Ramees,

New Delhi: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra announced her electoral debut in the upcoming Lok Sabha bypolls from Wayanad, Kerala, surprising many after Rahul Gandhi’s anticipated decision to relinquish the seat.

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During a post-election rally in Wayanad on June 12, Rahul Gandhi remarked, “I have a dilemma before me, whether I should represent Wayanad or Raebareli. What I can assure you is that my decision will bring satisfaction to both constituencies.” He recalled how Wayanad played a crucial role in his political career, rescuing him from one of the most challenging moments after his defeat in Amethi to Smriti Irani. In the recent election, Rahul contested and won both Wayanad and Raebareli with overwhelming support.

A political analyst from the region, who recently completed an MA in Politics from Jamia Millia Islamia, interpreted Rahul’s remarks as a nod towards Priyanka’s potential candidacy in Wayanad, suggesting that no other celebrity candidate from the Congress could better resonate with the electorate.

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala told, “Congress party members are enthusiastic about Priyanka contesting in Wayanad. Given Rahul’s 3.6 lakh vote margin in the last election, we expect his sister to surpass that, possibly exceeding 4 lakhs. The CPI, part of the INDIA bloc, is expected to support Priyanka this time. We have witnessed the impact of their opposition against Rahul previously and hope they will not repeat the same mistake.”

With the introduction of ‘Brand’ Priyanka, Congress aims for a decisive victory in the upcoming Kerala Assembly election. This strategic move also eliminates the challenge of selecting a local leader while responding to the demands from various Muslim organizations, including Samastha Kerala Jem-Iyyathul Ulama, to field a Muslim candidate for the vacant seat.

Wayanad constituency is home to an estimated 14.6 lakh voters, predominantly represented by Christians and Muslims constituting 60% of the electorate. Geographically, it spans across three districts: Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Malappuram. Within Wayanad, Assembly segments encompass Mananthavady, Sulthan Bathery, and Kalpetta. Thiruvambady falls under Kozhikode district, while Nilambur, Eranad, and Wandoor are located in Malappuram district.

Established following a delimitation in 2008, Wayanad has consistently favored candidates from the United Democratic Front (UDF), remaining a stronghold of the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The IUML boasts a dedicated voter base and a well-organized booth-level electoral system, renowned for effectively mobilizing support, a strategy appreciated by numerous UDF candidates.

Commenting on Priyanka Gandhi’s candidacy, Sadiqali Shihab Thangal, president of the IUML, stated, “This is a commendable decision by the Congress, one that will bolster the UDF and strengthen the entire INDIA alliance.”

Wayanad Congress functionary Kabeer Ebrahim said, “The Gandhi family’s presence in South India, particularly in Kerala, will enhance the region’s access to the Centre. Rahul Gandhi’s decision to focus on North India is crucial at this juncture, and we fully support it. Priyanka Gandhi’s candidacy is the perfect fit for this prestigious constituency.”

Although this marks Priyanka’s debut election, she is no stranger to Wayanad. Her distinctive bobbed hair and infectious smile became synonymous with Rahul’s campaigns in the constituency. Her first visit was in 2016 when she campaigned for P. K. Jayalakshmi in the assembly election. Since then, she has visited numerous places across the district as a key campaigner for her brother.

“We have consistently delivered historic mandates for Rahul in every election. For Priyanka, the support will be even stronger because she possesses charisma that resonates with women voters. Despite internal divisions within the Congress, everyone will unite to ensure her victory,” added Ebrahim.

Two assembly constituencies in Kerala, Palakkad and Chelakkara, will witness by-elections alongside Wayanad. The Kerala Congress is optimistic that the ‘Priyanka effect’ will contribute to their victories in these seats.

Meanwhile, CPI(M), also part of the INDIA alliance, has confirmed their intention to field a candidate against Priyanka. “If the CPI(M) refrains from contesting, it could inadvertently bolster the BJP’s vote share. We are committed to preventing any political advantage to the BJP,” stated Binoy Viswam, the Left party’s state secretary, while talking to

“Rahul departed Wayanad within two weeks. The Congress should avoid such gimmicks, especially with a leader of his stature,” he emphasized.

“When Rahul arrived, the CPI(M) criticized his presence, and now they continue to do so as he departs,” remarked Mohammed Shahal, who aligns ideologically with the UDF.

“By deploying a prominent Congress leader to contest against the LDF, also a part of the INDIA alliance, the Congress might be sending a wrong signal,” opined Ashif Shaheer, joint secretary of the SFI at Jamia Millia Islamia. “Rahul’s lack of grassroots engagement was noted, and I am uncertain if Priyanka can fill that void. We require someone deeply connected with the constituency’s people, consistently present, not just an occasional visitor.”

Despite holding 20 seats in the Lok Sabha, none of the parties have succeeded in electing a woman to represent Kerala in Parliament. With Priyanka Gandhi entering the arena, the Congress seeks to appeal to women voters, drawn by her “charisma” and ability to rally large crowds. This move not only enhances Congress’s political strategy but also marks a notable advancement for women’s representation in the state.

“If Gandhis were contesting in our constituency, we might contemplate voting for the Congress,” remarked Lini, an Asha worker from a neighboring constituency who traditionally supports the CPI(M).