Wayanad candidacy tests INDIA bloc's unity in Kerala

The Left is of the opinion that Gandhi contesting against a senior Left leader would be a “wrong political step” and ask what message it would be sending to the country.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, hold a roadshow in Wayanad constituency as part of his campaign during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, hold a roadshow in Wayanad constituency as part of his campaign during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.FILE - EPS Photo | A Sanesh

All is not well with INDIA in Kerala, a state where the two key players of the alliance—Congress and the Left parties—are on a strong wicket. Though the two are the driving forces behind the national alliance, they are on the opposite poles of the state polity, and their state leaderships have been having a tough time explaining this contradiction. The testing issue right now is the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency—one of the strongest Congress bastions in Kerala, which gave refuge to Rahul Gandhi in 2019.  While Gandhi is in two minds on contesting again from Wayanad, the CPI has fielded its national executive member and prominent face Annie Raja for the seat. The candidature of Annie, who is married to party general secretary D Raja, who shares a good personal rapport with Gandhi, has created confusion within the INDIA bloc.

The Left is of the opinion that Gandhi contesting against a senior Left leader would be a “wrong political step” and ask what message it would be sending to the country. “Who is the enemy of the Congress—the RSS-BJP combine or the Left?” is a refrain heard often in the Left camp. The BJP, on the other hand, is making fun of the bloc’s contradictions. On a recent state visit, Narendra Modi said the Left and the Congress were enemies in Kerala, but were the best of friends outside. “The Left wants the crown prince of Congress to stay out of Kerala,” he said.

Regardless of this taunt, the state Congress leadership is adamant that Gandhi should contest from the state. They know that the Congress-led front could win 19 of the total 20 seats in 2019, mainly because of Gandhi contesting from the state. They are not ready to give up that easy chance, especially because the party is on a stickier wicket this time with the BJP increasingly eating into its turfs. The fact that the state Congress leadership is quite weak also makes them desperate for Gandhi’s candidacy. The Congress’s national leadership should sort out the issues within the alliance and the party at the earliest if it is to make the bloc work at the national level. Otherwise, these internal contradictions will be an eyesore for the much-touted opposition unity.

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