Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra: One Gandhi In Raebareli, One In Wayanad: Congress’s Big Strategy Move

Mr Gandhi made it clear that his and his sister’s continued presence in both states is a given.

New Delhi:

The Congress decision to have Rahul Gandhi retain Raebareli and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra contest from the seat he is vacating, Kerala’s Wayanad, is seen as one of the party’s better planned strategic moves. It is expected to give it a firm foothold in both north and south — necessary groundwork for future elections.

Raebareli is one of the two Gandhi family bastions in Uttar Pradesh, represented for long by Rahul Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi. With the other bastion, Amethi, won back from the BJP by longtime Gandhi family loyalist KL Sharma, it gives back the Congress its firm base that once made it the undisputed choice of Uttar Pradesh.

Elections are due in the state in early 2027 in which the Congress is hoping to expand the niche it created in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election.

From just one seat in 2019, Raebareli, the Congress has won six seats. Its INDIA ally in the state, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, 37. Their combined number, 43, has reduced the BJP to 33 in a state that for a decade, was seen as its stronghold.

Having drawn blood, the idea now, party insiders hint, is to launch a strong attack on the Yogi Adityanath government in 2027.

But Mr Gandhi’s continued presence in Raebareli has ramifications larger than Uttar Pradesh. The Congress, which has almost doubled its numbers in the Lok Sabha — from 52 in 2019 to 99 — is hoping to stay on the growth curve, which is near impossible without increasing is footprint in the Hindi belt of the north.

The south is another story, where unlike the north, the Congress already rules three states. It won the last year’s assembly elections in Karnataka and Telangana and rules Tamil Nadu with ally MK Stalin’s DMK.

The next target is Kerala, which swung between the Congress and the Left every five years – till it broke the mould in 2021 and voted in the Left the Left for a second term. The Congress is now hoping that anti-incumbency will push the state to its side in 2026.

To that end, the presence of a Gandhi family member in Wayanad is expected to be a huge benefit. While the seat has been a traditional Congress bastion, Rahul Gandhi’s election this year is said to have re-vitalised the party. Of the 20 seats in Kerala, the Congress has won 14 seats, only one down, despite a massive BJP campaign that enabled them to open account in the state with one seat.

In a clear hint of the Kerala Congress’s enthusiasm for the new candidate, senior party leader from the state, KC Venugopal, was seen with Mr Kharge today at the press conference where Ms Gandhi Vadra’s debut was announced.

Mr Gandhi made it clear that his and his sister’s continued presence in both states is a given.

“You are now going to have two MPs, I will keep visiting,” he said in a message to the people of Wayanad. “Two seats (Wayanand and Raebareli) will have two MPs each,” echoed Ms Gandhi Vadra, underscoring her two-decade relationship with Raebareli. As for Wayanand, she said, “I won’t let the people of Wayanad feel his (Rahul Gandhi’s) absence”.

“I will work hard, try my best to make everyone happy in Wayanad, be a good representative,” she added.