Priyanka Gandhi From Wayanad? Poll Debut May Finally Happen, Say Sources

Congress workers in Wayanad have also put up banners requesting Ms Gandhi to "take care" of them if Rahul Gandhi gives up the seat.

Bypolls will be held within six months of Mr Gandhi vacating the seat.

New Delhi:

Speculation over Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's electoral debut had reached a crescendo ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, only to be completely deflated when she decided against contesting. The buzz has started gathering steam again, however, with sources telling NDTV on Thursday that the Congress leader may be the Congress candidate for the bypoll from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency if Rahul Gandhi vacates the seat. 

Mr Gandhi, who had won the Lok Sabha polls - with considerable margins - from both the Raebareli and Wayanad constituencies, also fanned the flames of a possible debut by his sister when he said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have lost "by two-three lakh votes" if his sister had fought against him in Varanasi. 

Long History

The 'will she-won't she' around Ms Gandhi contesting elections has been around since at least the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when it had been speculated that she could challenge PM Modi in the Varanasi constituency at a time when the Congress was struggling to halt the BJP juggernaut. 

After that didn't happen, Ms Gandhi herself had said she wasn't ruling out contesting the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2022, when she was the Congress General Secretary for the state. She had, in fact, hinted that she could be the chief ministerial candidate, only to say hours later that she had meant it in a tongue-in-cheek way. 

Ahead of the 2024 elections, Sonia Gandhi gave up the Raebareli seat - which she had held since 2004 - and became a Rajya Sabha MP. This time, the speculation was almost seen as a certainty. It was being reported that Priyanka Gandhi would contest from Raebareli and her brother would fight to win back Amethi from the BJP's Smriti Irani.

Sources had said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge had asked the Gandhi siblings to take a decision, but had let it be known that he would like both to contest. He had also said that if they didn't fight from the bastions, it would send a wrong message to the workers, the Congress' allies in the Opposition, and the NDA.

Ms Gandhi, had, however chosen not to contest. Sources close to her had said she had made the decision because if she also won the Lok Sabha polls, it would have led to three Gandhis being in Parliament - her mother, brother and her - lending credence to the BJP's dynastic politics charge. 

Winning Call?

The Congress leader had spent the bulk of her time campaigning in Raebareli and Amethi, both of which were won by her party with big margins. When the Lok Sabha results came, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance shocked the BJP and pollsters by winning 43 of Uttar Pradesh's 80 constituencies, with the Congress alone moving up to six from its 2019 tally of one. The BJP, which had clinched 62 constituencies last time, was reduced to 33, four lower than the Samajwadi Party's 37. 

After the results, Rahul Gandhi had also praised his sister's role while thanking the residents of UP.

Rahul Gandhi's Dilemma

Ms Gandhi contesting in the bypolls from Wayanad will hinge on Rahul Gandhi deciding to give up the constituency - which had granted him a win when he had lost Amethi in 2019 - in favour of Raebareli. While he had said on Wednesday that he is facing a dilemma and is still undecided, saying only that his final decision will make people from both constituencies happy, sources have said it is almost certain that he will choose to go with Raebareli because of UP's importance in national politics. 

Two senior Congress functionaries have also made statements to this effect. 

Kishori Lal Sharma, a key Gandhi family aide, who handed a shock defeat to Union Minister Smriti Irani in Amethi, has urged Rahul Gandhi to retain the Raebareli seat while Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief K Sudhakaran has hinted that the leader could relinquish the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat. 

"We should not be saddened as Rahul Gandhi who is supposed to lead the nation cannot be expected to remain in Wayanad. Therefore, we should not be sad. Everyone should understand that and give all their wishes and support to him," Mr Sudhakaran said.

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Congress workers have also held up banners in Wayanad requesting Mr Gandhi to not "leave them". The banners also requested him to ensure Priyanka Gandhi "takes care of" the people in Wayanad if he did decide to give up the constituency. 

Bypolls will be held within six months of Mr Gandhi vacating a seat, setting the stage for an interesting contest.