Price and prejudice | Pakistan Today

Price and prejudice

Why Rahul left Amethi for Wayanad

If Amethi is not safe for Rahul Gandhi, then there is no safe constituency for Congress between Gangotri and the Bay of Bengal. That is the message that Rahul Gandhi has sent with his “Jupiter velocity” escape from a family heirloom seat in the centre of Uttar Pradesh to the distant hills of Wayanad in Kerala. The decline, fall and collapse of Congress in the Ganga-Yamuna heartland is a narrative of political suicide that deserves a book to itself. But that is another story.

The escape from Amethi is the first defeat of Congress in the general elections of 2019.

It is pertinent to note that all the major Opposition forces have done what they could to ensure a victory for Rahul Gandhi. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav did not put up any candidate. But mathematics does not work when chemistry becomes the decisive factor. The voter of Amethi is tired and angry at having been taken for a long and hungry ride. It also justifies the decision by Mayawati and Akhilesh to keep Congress out of their alliance. Congress has nothing to offer.

The intriguing question is: why Wayanad?

It is normal for a high-voltage candidate seeking safety to go to a state where the party has the government. An administration can help in so many unobtrusive ways. Congress has a functioning government in Punjab. It has newly elected governments in three States, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Indeed, when it won these elections four months ago, Congress drumbeaters welcomed the arrival of new dawn that would reach high noon in the elections of 2019.

Why didn’t Rahul Gandhi contest from these states? Doesn’t he trust his Chief Ministers? Or is he convinced that voters have turned away already?

Karnataka was seriously in consideration. Congress is the dominant partner in the ruling coalition in Bangalore. The JDS patriarch H D Deve Gowda needs Congress for his personal ambitions. There is historical resonance as well. When Mrs Indira Gandhi led the Congress revival in 1978 after the rout of 1977, she came to Chikmagalur in Karnataka en route to Parliament. Just recently Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao invited Rahul Gandhi to contest from his state. Bidar was the seat being mentioned. Such invitations are not sent without prior consultations. Why was Karnataka abandoned?

Once again, the answer is obvious. Karnataka is no longer considered safe by Congress, even for its leader. Now that the campaign has begun in earnest we can see why. Grassroots sentiment is swaying towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

So why Wayanad?

In Wayanad Rahul Gandhi is not contesting against the BJP, but against the CPI. Indeed, you can hear leftist hearts breaking across the red to pink spectrum. The Left did all it could to support Rahul Gandhi through a history of uncertainty, error and misjudgement. This is hardly the reward it expected. This is the same Rahul Gandhi who has been asking all friendly politicians to set all differences to the side and defeat BJP. Moreover Kerala has a Marxist government rather than a Congress led UDF government, so Congress will not get any administrative advantage.

The one and only reason for Rahul Gandhi’s decision is that around half the active voters are Muslims. That by itself is nothing wrong. Indian Muslims are Indian voters and have every right to an independent choice. But Wayanad means a different narrative.

There is nothing called a homogeneous Muslim vote. Muslims make different decisions in UP, Bihar, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka or Kerala. The Muslim vote in Wayanad is split. A certain number will be with the CPI. In fact, the CPI candidate is a Muslim. But the bulk of Muslim support goes to the Muslim League in Kerala generally and Wayanad particularly. Rahul Gandhi is going to depend on the Muslim League for the victory he is so anxious to win. If statistics are anything to go by then Congress might want to remember that the UDF was votes, which can hardly be considered comfortable. If Rahul Gandhi wants the safety, he craves then the only party which can help is the Muslim League.

This is the first time in history that a Congress president will be in debt to the Muslim League. Think about the implications.

M J Akbar

Mobashar Jawed Akbar is a leading Indian journalist and author. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Guardian. He has also served as Editorial Director of India Today. He tweets at: @mjakbar.