Sources said Rahul Gandhi is also unlikely to take up the post of leader of the opposition.

New Delhi:

In a move that has been speculated for a while, Rahul Gandhi is going to give up the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat today in favour of the family bastion of Raebareli, which he had also won with a big margin, sources have told NDTV. This will pave the way for the Congress leader’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to contest from the constituency in Kerala, buzz about which has been building up for a few days.

Another important piece of information revealed by the sources is that despite a clamour from Congress leaders, Mr Gandhi is unlikely to take up the role of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. This would have enabled him to get Cabinet rank status, coordinate better with allies in the INDIA bloc and helped the Congress project a strong face with its increased presence in the Lok Sabha. 

“He has conveyed that he is not inclined to take up the post,” a source said. 

The Congress will hold a meeting around 5 pm and the decision on the Wayanad constituency is likely to be taken there because today is the last day for it to be conveyed to the Lok Sabha secretariat. The call on the pick for the Leader of the Opposition may also be made during the meeting but the selection of the Wayanad candidate can wait as the bypoll will be held within six months of Mr Gandhi giving up the seat.

Practical Considerations

In the just concluded Lok Sabha elections, the Congress leader won the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, where he had emerged victorious in 2019 despite his shock defeat in Amethi at the hands of BJP leader Smriti Irani, by a margin of 3.64 lakh votes. This was eclipsed by his performance in Raebareli – helped by Sonia Gandhi’s emotional appeal to voters that she was handing her son to them – which he won with a margin of 3.9 lakh votes. 

The Raebareli seat was held by Sonia Gandhi since 2004 until she moved to the Rajya Sabha earlier this year. Cementing its status as a Gandhi family bastion is the fact that it was also represented by Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother and former PM Indira Gandhi, and her husband Feroze Gandhi. 

While Rahul Gandhi was not inclined to give up Wayanad, what also worked in favour of Raebareli was the fact that it’s in Uttar Pradesh, home to the largest number of Lok Sabha seats in the country, the sources said. The astounding performance of the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in the state, where it won 43 of 80 constituencies, reducing the BJP from 62 to 33, also played a role in the decision-making.

Last week, Mr Gandhi had said that he was facing a dilemma and was still undecided on which seat he would retain, hinting only that his final decision would make people from both constituencies happy. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief K Sudhakaran had almost let the cat out of the bag when he said, “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.”

Priyanka Gandhi’s Debut?

Should Priyanka Gandhi decide to take the plunge from Wayanad, it will end speculation around her political debut, which has been around since before the last Lok Sabha elections. There was buzz that she would be the candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi and, ahead of the 2024 elections, it was speculated that she would contest from Raebareli while Rahul Gandhi would fight to win back Amethi.

Apart from Congress workers, the push had also reportedly come from Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, but Ms Gandhi had chosen not to contest. Sources close to her had said that she did not want to give the BJP a reason to hurl allegations of dynastic politics at the Congress given that her brother and mother were already members of Parliament.

Her gambit paid off, especially in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress managed to increase its tally of Lok Sabha seats from one to six.

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