- Rahul Gandhi was requested to contest from three southern states
- This is the first time Mr Gandhi is contesting from a second seat
- His decision to contest from Kerala has triggered multiple jibes from BJP
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will contest the coming Lok Sabha elections from a second seat besides family stronghold Amethi. The seat will be Kerala's Wayanad, senior party leader AK Anthony announced this morning. This is the first time Mr Gandhi is contesting from a second seat. Mr Gandhi's mother, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, had trounced Sushma Swaraj in Karnataka's Bellary in 1999. Amethi was the other seat she contested. His grandmother Indira Gandhi had contested from Raebareli and Medak - currently in Telangana -- in 1980.
The Congress decision triggered multiple jibes from the BJP. Union minister Smiti Irani, who would be contesting against Mr Gandhi for the second time from Amethi, tweeted that the constituency "drove him away". The BJP has accused him of opting for a "safe seat" in Wayanad.
The Congress said the BJP comments were "immature".
"Similar allegations could have been made when Narendra Modi left Gujarat," said senior party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala. "The BJP minister (Smriti Irani) earlier lost from both Amethi and Chandni Chowk (in Delhi). Now, she is prepped up for losing again in Amethi," he added.
Mr Gandhi has been representing Amethi since 2004, but his winning margin has hugely shrunk in 2014. In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress lost four of the five assembly segments that fall under the Lok Sabha seat.
The decision that Mr Gandhi would contest from a southern seat was taken last week by the Congress Working Committee. The party had said its southern units felt that it would boost their prospects if Mr Gandhi contested from the south as well.
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of trying to create a "deep divide" between the north and south India, Mr Surjewala said Mr Gandhi was requested to contest from three southern states -- Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. By representing Wayanad - which borders Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, he would be able to represent the other states as well, Mr Surjewala said.
Rahul Gandhi, he said, "considers Amethi a part of his family". But this is a fight against those forces who "seek to divide India based on colour, language, based on way of life, based on food habits and based on the clothes you wear, and that's why Rahul Gandhi said "I will represent Amethi but I will also represent the southern states for they are an important part of India's way of life and India' way forward'.
Wayanad will vote on April 23 and Amethi on May 6. The counting of votes for the country will be held on May 23.
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