Part of INDIA bloc, yet LDF on a spree to discredit ‘rival’ Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad

The left campaign portrays the Gandhi scion as a member of parliament who forgot his constituency and was never serious about its grievances.

ByK A Shaji

Published Mar 12, 2024 | 10:00 AMUpdatedMar 12, 2024 | 11:52 AM

Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad

After the apparent failure of the BJP at discrediting Rahul Gandhi, it seems now the CPI(M) is shouldering that task. Indeed, the left party has its own axes to grind against the leader of an alliance, of which it is also a part.

Although part of the Opposition’s Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc, Left and Congress are the primary political rivals in Kerala. The alliance partners will fight each other in States like Punjab, Kerala and West Bengal where a joint contest might end up being beneficial for BJP.

The CPI(M) initially tried to force the Congress leader to vacate his Wayanad constituency and contest the Lok Sabha election from North India and allocate the seat to its coalition constituent CPI.

Now, the CPI(M) started a concerted campaign, terming the Gandhi scion as a poorly performed parliamentarian who never cared even for attendance. His irregularity in attending the parliament has become the biggest campaign issue in Kerala in general and Wayanad in particular. The campaign also says Rahul failed to address grave matters concerning the constituency, especially the worsening human-animal conflicts.

Of course, it is another matter that the CPI(M) uses pictures of Gandhi in its campaign posters in states like Tamil Nadu and Bihar.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi to contest from Wayanad]

CPI(M) cadres cite PRS India data

In this smear campaign, the CPI(M) cyber wings are citing the PRS India data on the performance of MPs to establish that his performance was below the national average.


Rahul Gandhi with the flood-hit families in Wayanad. (File photo/Supplied)

As per the data, Gandhi had 51 percent attendance, while the national average was 79 and the state average was 83. He took part in hardly eight debates; among them, only one was related to Wayanad’s non-existent railway infrastructure. He raised only 99 questions, against the national average of 210 and the state average of 275.

All the constituents of Kerala’s LDF, including the CPI(M) and CPI, are members of the INDIA bloc at the national level, but they regard Congress as their principal political opponent in the state.

They feel their winnability in all 20 constituencies in Kerala depends on how much they reduce the majority of Gandhi in Wayanad, a traditional Congress bastion.

Earlier, the CPI(M) tried to facilitate Gandhi’s move out of Kerala and hoped that it would increase Lok Sabha’s seat tally from the state. Now, it’s clear that Gandhi’s presence in Wayanad would influence the political preferences of other constituencies.

Also Read: KK Shailaja, Thomas Isaac among candidates named by CPI(M)

Winning more seats crucial for LDF

As far as the CPI(M) and CPI are concerned, gaining maximum seats from Kerala in his election is crucial, as any further decrease in vote share would cause their loss of recognition as national parties.

Also, a poor performance in the state would land Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a tight spot, making the whole Left in the country meaningless. Thus the CPI(M) is now keen on projecting itself as the better option to fight the BJP and its communal politics and portraying Gandhi as a politician who forgets even his constituency by being absent from the parliament.

“LDF is conducting a heinous campaign here targeting Gandhi. Congress and its allies in Kerala had 19 members in the Lok Sabha, and they raised almost all the burning issues of Wayanad along with Gandhi. As a national leader, Gandhi had to travel widely, resulting in a decrease in his attendance. But see the questions he raised in parliament, and most reflect his concern for Wayanad,” claimed T Siddique, MLA from Kalpetta in Wayanad.

In 2019, the LDF won just one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala — Alappuzha. Gandhi’s presence in Wayanad had a ripple effect across the state, resulting in the Congress-led Opposition UDF winning 19 of the 20 seats.

Also Read: Padmaja Venugopal joining BJP has left ruling LDF in Kerala ecstatic

Anti-incumbency feelings about LDF

The significant feelings of anti-incumbency that the second Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state is faced with, coupled with Gandhi’s popularity, may well favour the Congress and the UDF yet again in 2024, feels KR Sajan, a Congress regional leader in Wayanad.

Last time, Gandhi defeated the CPI candidate in Wayanad by a whopping 4.31 lakh votes.

“He looks stronger now. His credentials are higher this time after the two Jodo Yatras and putting up a movement of resistance against the communal and corporate designs of the Modi government. He will win this time with a whopping majority,” said Wayanad’s farmers’ leader PT John.

“In Kerala, there is no BJP. Rahul should run against the BJP rather than the LDF, as it will send the message that the Congress’ major enemy is the Left parties, not the BJP. Rahul should run from a BJP stronghold,” says CPI(M) state secretary MV Govindan.

In the just adjourned Lok Sabha, the CPI(M) has only one member from Kerala — AM Arif, who won from Alappuzha. The CPI(M) and CPI have two members each from Tamil Nadu, where the Left parties are alliance partners of the DMK, along with Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) — two parties they are opposed to in Kerala.

“Through Gandhi, the rest of the world learned about Wayanad. He did an outstanding job as an MP. We may disagree on politics, but he is our leader,” KV Pratheesh, owner of a photography studio in Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad, told South First.

Also Read: CPI names Annie Raja for Wayanad Lok Sabha seat 

‘Done a lot for the constituency’

Congress leaders in Wayanad claim that he has highlighted numerous critical concerns impacting Wayanad’s economy in Parliament, including prolonging the moratorium on farm loan repayment, the need for road infrastructure maintenance, and expanding the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or MGNREGS.

Gandhi also effectively used his MPLAD (Local Area Development) grant. During the height of COVID-19, he ensured that relief measures were implemented in Wayanad, using MPLAD funds to purchase medical equipment, PPEs, masks, and other items valued at ₹2.7 crore, they said.

“Projects ranging from the purchase of cars for community healthcare facilities to the procurement of computer lab equipment and the construction of Anganwadi centres were also completed. He had also campaigned to lift the nighttime traffic ban on NH-766, establish a government medical college in Wayanad, and complete the Nanjangud-Nilambur railway line as soon as possible,” the Congress leaders added.

After Congress confirmed Gandhi’s candidature in Wayanad, even CPI national secretary D Raja raised the question of why he was contesting in Wayanad without going to North India to take on the BJP directly. Vijayan said Gandhi lacked the courage to fight the BJP directly.

“CPI(M) is free to say whatever it can. For us, the people of Wayanad, Gandhi is the face of the anti-BJP Opposition. It’s a matter of pride for us to reflect on him with the higher majority. He addressed all major issues of Wayland and brought national attention to us. He was never a migratory bird and always visited Wayanad even during the breaks of Covid-induced lockdown,” says N Badusha, president of Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithy.

Annie Raja, a national executive member of the CPI and wife D Raja, has already clarified that Gandhi remains one of her best friends and will not engage in any wily campaign against him.

She had also not attempted to assess the parliamentary performance of Gandhi, who was suspended from Lok Sabha membership for over four months and was active across the country, leading the two Bharat Jodo Yatras.