Rahul Gandhi would not contest from Kerala, sources in the Congress said on Sunday, and indicated that the invite to the party chief from the Congress in Kerala was the fallout of internal bickering. "Rahul Gandhi hasn't even given a thought or discussed this option so far," the sources said following a barrage of BJP taunts on the issue.
The Wayanad seat, they said, was offered to Rahul Gandhi after senior party leader Ramesh Chennithala and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy could not come to an agreement on who should be fielded from there.
Sources also said the message from the southern state - that the Congress is fighting the Left rather than the BJP - was also completely wrong, they said. The Congress and the Left have always been at loggerheads at the southern state, which had adversely affected their relations in Bengal.
Ahead of the last assembly elections in Bengal, despite great insistence from their local leaders, the two parties did not have an official tie-up against Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. This time, coalition talks over the state's 42 seats fell through midway.
Yesterday, after the Congress in Kerala invite to the party chief, senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala had given a polite brush-off. "We thank them for the love and respect. Rahul ji has always said that Amethi will remain his karam bhoomi. Rahul ji will positively consider the request of KPCC," Mr Surjewala had said.
Local reports, however, quoted Congress leaders as saying that Mr Gandhi has agreed to their request to contest from Wayanad constituency in northern Kerala.
It had caused much mirth in the BJP camp. Smriti Irani, who had been nurturing Amethi - the Gandhi family stronghold which Rahul Gandhi currently represents in Lok Sabha - indicated that Mr Gandhi is looking for other options as he would have lost from Amethi.
"Amethi drove him away. Calls requesting him to contest from other seats are being staged as people have rejected him," she tweeted in Hindi, using hashtag #BhaagRahulBhaag.
Ms Irani, who had challenged Rahul Gandhi from the seat in 2014, but lost, has been fielded there again. Over the last five years, Ms Irani has visited the constituency, loyal to the Gandhi family for decades, several times. She has accused Rahul Gandhi of taking its people for granted and failing to bring about any development.
Mr Gandhi, in turn, has blamed the ruling BJP government at the centre and state for taking away the big projects that he had lined up for Amethi.