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Rahul to contest from South where he leads Modi in polls

With Rahul showing a significant lead over Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in opinion polls across southern India but lagging in the north, the Congress believes his contesting from the south will help galvanise cadres.
Archis Mohan reports.

IMAGE: Rahul Gandhi at a flood affected camp in Kerala, August 28, 2018. Photograph: Kind courtesy INC/Twitter

The Congress on Saturday said party President Rahul Gandhi could contest the Lok Sabha election from Wayanad in Kerala, in addition to his home seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress’s Kerala unit said Rahul has agreed to their proposal.

In another development, the Congress ruled out any alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab and Haryana. However, it hinted that it has not yet shut the door on the possibility of an alliance for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.

In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath announced that Digvijaya Singh would contest from Bhopal.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance announced its candidates for 39 of the 40 seats in Bihar, at a press conference in Patna.

The BJP dropped Shatrughan Sinha, its disgruntled sitting MP from the Patna Sahib seat.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will be the BJP’s candidate on the seat.

Sinha, who is set to join the Congress, is the Grand Alliance’s likely candidate for this seat.

In Mumbai, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party announced their seat-sharing pact for the 48 seats of Maharashtra. The Congress will contest 26 and the NCP 22 seats.

The Congress will give the Palghar seat to the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi from its share and another undeclared seat to Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana.

From its 22 seats, the NCP will leave Hatkanangle seat for Shetti’s party, who is the sitting MP, and give another one to Independent legislator Ravi Rana’s Yuva Swabhiman Party.

As for the possibility that Rahul could contest from Wayanad, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party’s state units in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had ‘urged’ Gandhi to contest from these states.

“Their sentiments are deeply valued and respected. The party will take a decision,” he said.

However, the Congress’s Kerala chief Mullapally Ramachandran said Rahul has ‘agreed’ to the state unit’s demand.

With Rahul showing a significant lead over Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in opinion polls across southern India but lagging in the north, the Congress believes his contesting from the south will help galvanise cadres.

The Congress has already announced Rahul’s candidature from Amethi. The BJP has fielded Union Minister Smriti Irani from Amethi once again, where she had lost to Rahul in 2014.

Members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty have contested from southern India in the past, particularly when faced with electoral reverses. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi contested from Chikamagalur in a by-poll in 1978, when she was in the Opposition.

In an attempt at a comeback, she contested from the Medak seat in present day Telangana, leaving her traditional Rae Bareli seat, during the 1980 polls.

Sonia Gandhi contested from Bellary in 1999, when the Congress was out of power at the Centre.

In 2014, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party did not field a candidate against Rahul in Amethi. Relations have soured between the top leadership of the BSP and Congress in recent weeks, with the latter targeting some of the seats the BSP is contesting in Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier, the SP-BSP-RLD alliance had decided not to field any candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli. Recent indications suggest the BSP could field a candidate in Amethi.

As for the NDA’s candidates in Bihar, Giriraj Singh, the BJP’s sitting MP from Nawada, has been shifted to Begusarai, while Shahnawaz Hussain, who lost in 2014 from Bhagalpur, has been dropped.

The two seats have gone to the BJP’s allies, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Janata Dal-United, respectively.

LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pasupati Kumar Paras will contest from Hajipur after the former’s decision not to contest this year.

In Delhi, Congress sources said majority of its workers are in favour of a pre-poll alliance with the AAP for the seven seats.

The AAP had initially proposed a 3-3-1 formula, with the two parties contesting three seats each and former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha contesting one. The final decision is likely next week.

The BJP on Saturday announced 112 more candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.

Among the surprises, it decided to support Independent candidate Sumanlatha, widow of Congress leader and actor Ambareesh, in the Mandya Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka. She will face Nikhil Gowda of the Janata Dal-Secular, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s grandson.

The BJP central election committee, which met on Friday evening, fielding Himachal Pradesh minister Kishan Kapoor from the Kangra seat, replacing sitting MP and senior leader Shanta Kumar.

It is consistent with the party not fielding leaders who are above 75 years, including L K Advani. Kumar is 84.

It also replaced Virendra Kashyap, its sitting MP from Shimla, with ex-serviceman Suresh Kashyap.

The BJP had won all four of Himachal Pradesh’s seats in 2014. It retained its sitting MPs in the other two seats. Ramswaroop Sharma will contest from Mandi and Anurag Thakur from Hamirpur.

The BJP announced 10 of its 14 candidates in Jharkhand, retaining Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha from his Hazaribagh seat.

From Khunti seat, it replaced senior leader and sitting MP Karia Munda with former chief minister Arjun Munda. Kariya Munda is 82.

At the meeting, the BJP leadership acknowledged a letter from senior leader Uma Bharti stating that she would not like to contest elections, and appointed her a vice-president of the party.

The party announced 15 candidates in Gujarat, retaining 14 of its sitting MPs. It replaced its Surendranagar MP Devjibhai Govindbhai Fatepara with Dr Mahendra Munjpara, a well-known local doctor.

It had earlier announced that BJP national President Amit Anilchandra Shah will replace Advani in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat. The BJP won all 26 of Gujarat’s Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

In Goa, it has retained both its sitting MPs, including Union Minister and the MP from North Goa Shripad Yesso Naik.

The BJP announced 15 of its candidates in Madhya Pradesh. The state has 29 Lok Sabha seats, and the BJP had won 27 of these in 2014.

The party has moved Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar from Gwalior to Morena. It dropped its sitting MPs in Bhind, Shahdol, Ujjain and Betul.

Until now, the BJP has declared 286 of its candidates. Earlier in the day, it released its third, fourth and fifth lists. The third list had 36 names, including that of party spokesperson Dr Sambit Patra, who will contest from Odisha’s Puri constituency.

The list also had candidates the party is fielding in Maharashtra, where it has an alliance with the Shiv Sena. In Maharashtra, the BJP has dropped six sitting MPs to beat anti-incumbency.

Source: Rediff