Rahul Gandhi will contest a second seat besides Uttar Pradesh's Amethi for the first time in next month's national election, the Congress has decided, according to sources. That seat will be from one of the southern states --Kerala, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu.
There is already buzz about Wayanad in Kerala. Also the DMK's MK Stalin, Congress ally in Tamil Nadu, wants Rahul Gandhi to contest in Tamil Nadu.
Rahul Gandhi's decision to contest in the south, along with his traditional Amethi seat, follows requests from various state units, said sources. It will boost Congress prospects in that region, party leaders feel.
The decision emerged hours after the Congress Working Committee, the party's top policy-making body that includes top leaders like former prime minister Manmohan Singh, met for discussions.
The BJP has scoffed at the Congress chief's plans, interpreting it as a sign of nervousness and an attempt to move away from Amethi, where the ruling party has pitched Union Minister Smriti Irani against him for the second time.
Kerala and Karnataka are seen to be strong options for Rahul Gandhi. In 1999, his mother Sonia Gandhi also contested from north and south; she won both Bellary in Karnataka and Amethi.
A section of the party saw the invite from Kerala to contest in Wayanad as the result of bickering within the Congress in the seaside state ruled by the Left-led coalition.
The Wayanad seat was offered to Rahul Gandhi after senior party leader Ramesh Chennithala and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy failed to agree on who should be fielded, some leaders claimed.
Senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala had said on Saturday on the Kerala Congress leaders' request: "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."
Smriti Irani, who never stopped visiting Amethi even after her defeat to Rahul Gandhi in 2014 - with a much-reduced margin, enthused the BJP - said Rahul Gandhi is looking for options as he faces defeat in his own constituency.
Rahul Gandhi has been winning in Amethi since 2004. But of late, the picture has been grim as the Congress lost four of five assembly segments in Amethi in the 2017 UP polls.
"Amethi drove him away. Calls requesting him to contest from other seats are being staged as people have rejected him," Smriti Irani taunted in a tweet, using hashtag #BhaagRahulBhaag (run Rahul run).
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