Behind Priyanka Gandhi's 'No' To Poll Fight, A Recurring BJP Taunt: Sources

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been campaigning extensively for the Congress

New Delhi:

The Congress’s announcement of candidates for its two prestige seats, Amethi and Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, has effectively put the lid on speculation regarding senior party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s electoral debut.

According to sources in the party, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge had requested Ms Gandhi Vadra to contest from Amethi or Rae Bareli, but she refused. Behind her reluctance, sources said, was the fact that a victory for her and her brother Rahul Gandhi would put three members of the Gandhi family in Parliament — mother Sonia Gandhi is now in Rajya Sabha. This would reinforce the BJP’s charge of dynastic politics, she reasoned, according to sources in the party.

Some leaders, however, fear that her decision may create a negative perception among voters. Ms Gandhi Vadra has been campaigning extensively and has been the face of the Congress’s counterstrike after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘mangalsutra’ charge at the Grand Old party. Many feel that the Congress could have benefited from her star power if she contested the polls.

The Congress’s much-awaited decision on these two seats came early this morning. A big surprise was Rahul Gandhi being fielded from Rae Bareli, and not Amethi, which he has represented thrice in Lok Sabha. For Amethi, the Congress chose Kishori Lal Sharma, a long-time loyalist of the Gandhis. Mr Sharma, who has earlier worked as Sonia Gandhi’s representative in Rae Bareli, will be contesting his first election.

Both Rahul Gandhi, who is also contesting from Kerala’s Wayanad, and Mr Sharma will be filing their nomination today. Amethi and Rae Bareli will vote in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls on May 20.

Mr Gandhi will take on the BJP’s Dinesh Pratap Singh in Rae Bareli and Mr Sharma is up against Union Minister Smriti Irani in Amethi. Ms Irani had scored a shock win against Mr Gandhi in the 2019 polls and has been campaigning extensively in the constituency.

Congress leaders are confident that Mr Gandhi will post a thumping win in Rae Bareli. For Amethi, they say that Mr Sharma is a grassroots leader who will perform well.

Ms Gandhi Vadra took to social media to extend her greetings to Mr Sharma. “Kishori Lal Sharma shares a bond with our family. He has been dedicated to serving the people of Amethi and Rae Bareli. His zeal for public service is an example,” she said.

“It is heartening that the Congress has named him its candidate from Amethi. His dedication and sense of duty will surely bring him success in this election,” she posted on X.

The BJP has taken a swipe at Rahul Gandhi over the Congress’s move to switch him from Amethi to Rae Bareli.

Party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said the Congress is now “addicted to daydreaming”. “Rahul Gandhi’s decision to not contest in Amethi shows that the Congress campaigns lacks confidence. Instead of leading the fight like a responsible general, he is behaving like a runaway soldier,” he said.