Rahul in Kerala: Target is national party status of CPM, CPI
New Delhi, April 1: It is official that Congress president Rahul Gandhi will contest from Kerala's Wayanad Lok Sabha seat in addition to Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Senior Congress leader A K Antony announced Rahul's candidature on Sunday. Rahul may file his nomination on Wednesday, a day before the deadline ends.
This will be the first time that a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family will fight from Kerala, where all 20 constituencies go to polls on April 23.
The Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency was carved out in 2008 following the delimitation exercise. It comprises seven Assembly segments: three from Wayanad district, three from Malappuram district, and one from Kozhikode district.
Most of the Assembly segments in Wayanad have a large population of Muslims. Wayanad district has around 49% Hindus and 49% Muslims and Christians.
While announcing Rahul's candidature, Antony said it will boost the Congress prospects in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as Wayanad is a tri-junction.
The Congress is fighting in Kerala under the banner of United Democratic Front (UDF) of which the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is an important ally.
Political analysts say that considering the Muslim population of Wayanad the Congress won't be able to win the so-called safe seat without the support of the IUML.
However, the Congress feels that with Rahul contesting from Wayanad, the UDF may win 17-18 seats in Kerala.
Sources say that by fielding Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad, the Congress also wants to get the national party status of the CPI-M, as well as CPI, canceled.
For 'national' status a party should secure a minimum 6 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha elections and have at least 11 MPs. The CPI-M and CPI failed to achieve this in 2014.
The second option to earn national party status is to win 1 out of every 30 assembly seats in four states. Currently, both the CPI-M and CPI don't fulfill this criterion.
The Election Commission (EC) had even issued a notice to the CPI in 2014 seeking explanation on why its national party status should not be withdrawn after its rout in the Lok Sabha elections.
However, the CPI is still considered as a national party because the EC had amended norms to allow for review of a political party's recognition after two consecutive polls rather than the prevailing five five-year assessments.
"After the departure of Left government in Tripura and a weak position in West Bengal, Kerala is the only state where the Left parties have a significant presence. If they are defeated then they will definitely lose national party status," says a source.
Under the Symbols Order 1968, a party, on losing the national status, does not have the right to fight elections using a common symbol across the country.
The national parties can avail privileges such as free airtime on state media or campaigning and exemption of travel expenditure of up to 40 VVIP campaigners from being billed to the candidate.
The Left has sensed the intentions of the Congress. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Gandhi is coming to Kerala to fight the Left, not the BJP and it sends a wrong political message nationwide.
Miffed CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat also said that the Left would ensure that Rahul is defeated in Wayanad.
CPI leader D Raja also questioned the decision of the Congress, saying it made no sense as there is no BJP to fight in Kerala; it is the Left versus the Congress-led UDF.
The Congress has won the two Lok Sabha elections held in Wayanad in 2009 and 2014. MI Shanavas, who won the seat twice, died in November 2018.
The victory margin of the Congress was declined in 2014. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Shanavas got 410,703 votes, which was 49.86% of votes polled. In 2014, Shanavas' vote percentage dropped to 30.18% with 377,035 votes.