LS polls: Kerala BJP chief K Surendran to take on Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the BJP announcing its candidate for the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, the final lineup for Rahul Gandhi’s current seat is complete.

Despite speculation that the BJP would field a national leader in Wayanad, the party has chosen its state president, K. Surendran, for the prestigious contest. The CPI, a partner of the Indian alliance at the Centre, has also put forward their best possible candidate, Annie Raja.

Earlier, the BJP had plans to keep Surendran free from the electoral contest as it wanted him to concentrate more on organising the party campaign across the state. But under the existing circumstances, it had not much choice but to throw its strongest contestant into the ring.

The Wayanad constituency has traditionally been held by the Congress-led UDF. M I Shahnawaz, the Congress candidate, won consecutive victories here in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2009, the LDF lost the seat by 1.53 lakh votes, but significantly narrowed the margin in 2014, with the Congress winning by only 20,870 votes.

In 2019, the electoral landscape of Wayanad changed dramatically with the entry of Rahul Gandhi into the electoral race. He secured over 7 lakh votes, defeating his nearest CPI rival, P P Suneer, by a margin of over 4.31 lakh votes. The NDA fielded Thushar Vellapally of the BDJS, who came in third place, managing to get only 78,816 votes.

Surendran's candidacy is expected to energize the BJP supporters and attract media attention. However, the key question is whether it will have any impact on the actual voting outcomes. The gap between Congress and NDA votes in the 2019 polls is over six lakhs, which political observers believe is impossible to overcome.

The decision by the Congress to nominate Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad was strongly opposed by the CPI and CPM. They wanted Rahul to directly challenge the BJP to send a powerful message across the country.

However, there is another reason why the Left is uneasy. The CPM-led LDF suffered a near-complete defeat in the 2019 elections, managing to win just one of the 20 seats. Rahul Gandhi's choice to contest from Wayanad created a surge in support for the UDF, leading to its remarkable victory.

Kerala is the only state where the Left has a high chance of winning. Hence it's a crucial battle for the CPM and CPI, as they risk losing their election symbols and national party status if they suffer a significant electoral defeat.

As A K Balan, a member of the CPM central committee, recently said, "Work hard or be prepared to contest on symbols like the octopus."

Annie Raja takes the lead in campaigning

Annie Raja has been extensively touring the constituency since February 26, when her candidature was announced. The Congress decided on Rahul, who was busy with the Bharat Jodo Nyaya yatra, on March 6. He is expected to visit the constituency soon.

The UDF, LDF, and NDA are eagerly waiting to assess the impact of Rahul's decision to contest from Wayanad again. While it is too early to say whether he will have a 2019-like impact in the state, the body language of voters, when he visits for the first time after his candidacy, will surely provide some hints.

Meanwhile, with only a month remaining for the polls, the candidates are all set to intensify their campaigning.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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