Updated May 3rd, 2024 at 18:32 IST

Why Congress Chose Rae Bareli For Rahul Gandhi - Explained

Congress announced Rahul Gandhi as its candidate for Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat, while Kishori Lal Sharma will be contesting from Amethi against Smriti Irani.

Reported by: Apoorva Shukla
Rahul Gandhi filed nomination for Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat on Friday | Image: Republic
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New Delhi: Ending weeks long suspense, the Congress party named its candidates for the two traditional seats in Uttar Pradesh - Amethi and Rae Bareli - on Friday. Rahul Gandhi will be contesting from Rae Bareli seat, from where Sonia Gandhi is the outgoing MP. While Congress has fielded Sonia Gandhi's close confidante Kishori Lal Sharma from Amethi, where Rahul suffered an embarrassing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

This is the first time that a Gandhi is not contesting from Amethi. Rahul represented Amethi from 2004 till 2019, when he lost to BJP leader Smriti Irani by a margin of over 50,000 votes. The last time a non-Gandhi was in the fray from the constituency was in 1998, when Satish Sharma, a close aide of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, contested the polls but lost to the BJP's Sanjaya Sinh. 
Sonia Gandhi reclaimed the seat in 1999 routing Singh by over 3 lakh votes. In 2004, Sonia shifted to the adjacent Rae Bareli constituency to make way for her son Rahul Gandhi. Rahul won the constituency for three consecutive terms in 2004, 2009 and 2014.

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So, the question remains why would Congress leave Amethi, considered to be a traditional pocket borough of the Gandhi-Nehru family. It seems that Congress prioritised Rahul's win than being a leader. 

Why Congress Moved Rahul Gandhi to Rae Bareli

Amid Bharatiya Janata Party accusing Rahul Gandhi of running away from Amethi after conceding defeat, the Grand Old Party believes that Rae Bareli's historical, emotional and electoral importance for the Gandhi family was higher than that of Amethi. Rae Bareli is being considered as a 'safer seat' for Rahul Gandhi than Amethi, where Union minister Smriti Irani is again in the fray.

Secondly, political observers believes that if Rahul wins from Rae Bareli, it would be easier to leave Wayanad citing the historical significance or Rae Bareli and personal connection with his mother. As veteran leader and members of the Gandhi family including Feroze Gandhi, Arun Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi Have represented the parliamentary constituency. Rahul Gandhi is the sitting MP from Kerala's Wayanad seat, from where he is seeking re-election. 

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Rae Bareli's Tryst With Congress

Feroze Gandhi held the seat in the first two elections after Independence. Indira Gandhi took over from Feroze and represented Rae Bareli in 1967, 1971 and 1980. Indira Gandhi contested from two seats in 1980, Rae Bareli and Medak in Telangana. However, after the results, she chose to retain the Medak seat. Rajiv Gandhi's right-hand man, Arun Nehru won the 1980 bypoll and subsequently in 1984.

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Sheila Kaul, an aunt of Indira Gandhi, represented the seat in 1989 and 1991. In 1999, another friend of the Gandhis, Satish Sharma represented the Rae Bareli constituency, till Sonia Gandhi shifted there. The seat was also held by Congress' R P Singh in the 1960 bypoll after the demise of Feroze Gandhi, and by another Congress leader Baij Nath Kureel in 1962. The seat remained with the Gandhi-Nehru family or with close friends and family members. 

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rae Bareli was the lone seat which Congress won, as the BJP swept Uttar Pradesh. 

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Congress Justifies Move 

The Congress party, on Friday, asserted that the decision to move Rahul to Rae Bareli was a planned one.  He said that the decision to field Rahul Gandhi from Rae Bareli after a lot of deliberation and strategy, adding that the constituency is not just a legacy but also a responsibility. "This is not a legacy but a responsibility, a duty," said Ramesh. The Congress leader highlighted Rae Bareli has not only been Sonia Gandhi's seat but also Indira Gandhi's seat.

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"Many people have given different opinions on the news of Rahul Gandhi contesting elections from Rae Bareli. But he is a seasoned player of politics and chess. He makes his moves after careful consideration. The party leadership has taken this decision after a lot of deliberation and strategy," he added. 

Congress Lays Down Plan For Priyanka Gandhi's Entry 

On being asked about Priyanka Gandhi sitting out of the Lok Sabha election, Jairam Ramesh said that Priyanka could enter the Parliament any time by contesting a by-poll. He said that she can reach Parliament by contesting any bypoll, but is currently taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to counter him on his alleged "lies" during campaigning.

"Priyanka ji is campaigning vigorously and is alone shutting up Narendra Modi by answering his every lie with the truth. That is why it was necessary that she should not be limited to her constituency only. Priyanka ji will reach Parliament by contesting any by-election," said Ramesh. 

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Published May 3rd, 2024 at 15:59 IST