Finally, after much uncertainty, Congress leadership has officially declared that Rahul Gandhi will contest for the Wayanad constituency, causing immense jubilation and enthusiasm among Congress/UDF rank and file.
As the first contest by a virtual prime ministerial candidate from Kerala, this will create big surprise outside the Congress circles too. Wayanad is the most backward region in Kerala and probably because of that, the natives there will also be happy that their neglected area is coming to national focus. All put together, there is no disputing the fact that the declaration of Rahul's candidature has energized the electoral picture of Kerala.
When it comes to the national electoral picture, Kerala has mostly shown a tendency of giving UDF an upperhand. The reason for this is the voters' thinking in favour of a party that matters at the national level, as far it is related to a government at the centre. And the claim that an effective alternative against the communal-fascist coalition led by Narendra Modi, gives an edge to the Congress. And for their part, the left front is contesting in less than 100 constituencies in the entire country.
That being so, the idea of a secular alternative under Rahul Gandhi's leadership, is bound to attract the anti-sangh parivar voters. In Lok Sabha elections, even by normal standards the Congress has an upper hand, which is only boosted by the Rahul candidature factor. The Congress even claims that his descent on the south will create a wave in their favour across all south Indian states. Even as that is an unsubstantiated contention, Rahul's presence is sure to benefit his party and the alliance in all constituencies of Kerala. As a corollary, it is also sure to weaken further the current prospects of the left front.
Rahul's candidature has caused some consternation in left circles, as is amply evident in their responses. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has thrown a question what message Rahul's decision to contest here will send. But then there can also be a counter question what message will be sent by the Left's decision to contest against Rahul.
It is true that in Wayanad the sangh parivar is far from being a force to reckon with. All the same, one cannot blame a Congress president choosing a south Indian constituency too with a goal of bolstering his party's thrust. The decision to contest for a seat each in the north and the south of the country can be judged as an intelligent move. Reports also indicate that Priyanka Gandhi is being fielded to contest in prime minister Modi's constituency of Varanasi. If so, that too will make the election contest that much stiffer.
The basic issue here is that the left has failed to put forward a viable and effective political plan against the BJP's polarising politcs. Even presuming that Rahul does not contest in Wayanad, in current circumstances that does not lend any additional relevance to the left. And in Kerala, the Muslim community, which is the worst victim of the sangh parivar politics, has come to be most alienated from the left front. It is undeniable that that the soft approach taken towards the sangh parivar excesses and the propensity to give an extremist label to any organized Muslim move and to hunt them down, have all been on the rise ever since Pinarayi Vijayan came to power.
Take the incident at Kozhikode Medical College as an example: a programme there was attended by Dr Kafeel Khan, who had hit national headlines as a public health worker in Uttar Pradesh; even that event was labelled with an extremist tag and hunted when the country had already switched to election mode. Even minority organizations that had often shown sympathy for the left, are now giving a picture of distancing themselves from them in this election. When, in such a context Rahul, who has become a symbol of anti-sangh parivar politics, comes to contest from Kerala, that will certainly cast a shadow on the prospects of the left.
Left front is not an entity to end with the advent of Rahul. What should make it distinct is its own political stances and programme. When that is lost, it will lose its strength too. That is, the left cannot be expected to gain anything by questioning the candidature of Rahul, but instead it should make political advancement on the strength of its own political positions.