Priyanka Gandhi May Contest Wayanad Bypoll if Rahul Gandhi Shifts to Raebareli, Sources Say

Feature and Cover Priyanka Gandhi May Contest Wayanad Bypoll if Rahul Gandhi Shifts to Raebareli Sources Say

Speculation about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s potential entry into electoral politics surged ahead of the Lok Sabha elections but was abruptly quelled when she opted not to run. However, the buzz has reignited, with sources informing NDTV on Thursday that the Congress leader might contest the bypoll from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency if Rahul Gandhi vacates the seat.

Rahul Gandhi, who secured significant victories from both Raebareli and Wayanad in the Lok Sabha polls, added fuel to the speculation about his sister’s political debut. He remarked on Tuesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have lost “by two-three lakh votes” if Priyanka had contested against him in Varanasi.

Long History

The uncertainty surrounding Ms. Gandhi’s candidacy has been present since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. During that period, there was talk that she might challenge PM Modi in Varanasi, especially as the Congress struggled against the BJP’s dominance. Despite the speculation, Ms. Gandhi did not contest. Subsequently, she suggested she might run in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections, where she was the Congress General Secretary for the state, even hinting at the possibility of being the chief ministerial candidate. However, she later clarified that she was speaking tongue-in-cheek.

Before the 2024 elections, Sonia Gandhi vacated the Raebareli seat, which she had held since 2004, to become a Rajya Sabha MP. This development intensified speculation, with reports suggesting that Priyanka Gandhi would contest from Raebareli while her brother aimed to reclaim Amethi from the BJP’s Smriti Irani.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge reportedly asked the Gandhi siblings to decide on their candidacies, indicating a preference for both to run. Kharge suggested that their participation would send a positive message to party workers, allies, and the NDA. Despite this, Ms. Gandhi chose not to contest, with sources close to her explaining that having three Gandhis in Parliament—herself, her mother, and her brother—would bolster the BJP’s criticism of dynastic politics.

Winning Call?

Priyanka Gandhi dedicated much of her campaign efforts to Raebareli and Amethi, both of which her party won by substantial margins. The Lok Sabha results saw the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance surprise the BJP and pollsters by securing 43 out of 80 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, with the Congress improving from one to six seats compared to its 2019 tally. The BJP, which had won 62 seats in the previous election, was reduced to 33, trailing the Samajwadi Party’s 37.

Rahul Gandhi praised his sister’s campaign contributions, thanking the people of UP after the results were announced.

Rahul Gandhi’s Dilemma

The prospect of Priyanka Gandhi contesting the Wayanad bypolls depends on Rahul Gandhi relinquishing the constituency in favor of Raebareli. Despite his statement on Wednesday about facing a dilemma and being undecided, sources suggest he is likely to choose Raebareli due to its national political significance.

Two senior Congress officials have also supported this idea. Kishori Lal Sharma, a close aide to the Gandhi family who orchestrated a surprising defeat for Union Minister Smriti Irani in Amethi, has advised Rahul Gandhi to retain the Raebareli seat. Meanwhile, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief K Sudhakaran hinted that Rahul Gandhi might give up the Wayanad seat.

Sudhakaran remarked, “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.”

Congress workers in Wayanad have expressed their dismay, holding banners urging Rahul Gandhi not to leave. These banners also requested that Priyanka Gandhi “takes care of” the constituency if he decides to vacate it.

By-elections will be required within six months of Rahul Gandhi vacating the seat, potentially setting the stage for an intriguing electoral battle.

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