Pressure is building on Congress president Rahul Gandhi to contest from a constituency in southern India, apart from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, to boost the morale of party workers.
Over the past few weeks, leaders from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have urged Gandhi to select a seat of his choice in their respective states, according to a Congress functionary familiar with the matter.
The functionary, who asked not to be named, added that Gandhi could consider Bangalore Central, Bidar and Mysuru from Karnataka, Kanniyakumari and Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, and Wayanad in Kerala.
“Rahul ji will soon take a call on these requests,” he said.
Out of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, 130 are in southern India — 39 in Tamil Nadu, 28 in Karnataka, 25 in Andhra Pradesh, 20 in Kerala, 17 in Telangana, and one in Puducherry.
The Congress has substantial presence in Karnataka (which it rules in an alliance with the Janata Dal-Secular) and Kerala (where it is the principal Opposition party), is in alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, but is weak in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao on Monday wrote to Gandhi, formally inviting him to contest from the state, insisting that the move would boost the party’s rank and file across all of southern India.
Rao recalled that Karnataka had always done its bit when the Congress was in trouble.
He recalled that Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother Indira Gandhi and mother Sonia Gandhi contested Lok Sabha polls from Karnataka in the past.
Indira Gandhi contested the Lok Sabha by-elections from Chikmagalur in 1978, and won.
The victory was a turning point in Indira Gandhi’s career and effectively revived her political chances. Two years later, she swept back to power in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, with the Congress winning 353 seats. However, in 1980, Indira Gandhi represented Rae Bareli.
Following the footsteps of her mother-in-law, soon after joining politics, Sonia Gandhi contested the 1999 Lok Sabha elections from two seats – Bellary in Karnataka and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
She defeated BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj from Bellary and Sanjay Singh from Amethi. She chose to represent Amethi and gave up Bellary.
The Congress and the JD(S) have decided that the former will contest from Chikmagalur and the latter from Bellary.
“Sir, your acceptance to contest will be enthusiastically welcomed by our party workers and this decision by you will give very good message across south India,” Rao said.
He claimed the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is “losing its shine and our alliance in the south” is on a strong wicket.
Earlier this month, the Congress announced that Rahul Gandhi will contest from Amethi and Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah on Friday tweeted that the Karnataka unit of the Congress wants Rahul Gandhi, whom he called the “next Prime Minister of India”, to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from the state.
Last week, Tamil Nadu Congress leaders, including state chief KS Alagiri and senior leader Manickam Tagore, urged Rahul Gandhi to contest from their state, saying he was first proposed as the next Prime Minister by the party’s local alliance partner, the DMK.
“Rahul Gandhi is acceptable to the people as a leader beyond religion and caste, and, therefore, cannot be considered as belonging only to Uttar Pradesh. He is considered an asset of the people of India and enjoys the goodwill of all and has dedicated himself to the cause of unity,” Alagiri said.
By deciding to contest from the south, he said, Rahul Gandhi will be seen as a leader “connecting the north and south” and receive grand public support.
Kerala Congress leaders too have requested Rahul Gandhi to consider contesting from the state.
Mar 19, 2019 06:42 IST
Lok Sabha elections 2019: Congress leaders ask Rahul Gandhi to contest from 2nd seat in the South – Hindustan Times