Kalpetta (Ker) : With sister Priyanka Gandhi by his side, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday filed his nomination from Wayanad in Kerala and said he is fighting the Lok Sabha polls from a second seat in the south besides the party bastion Amethi in the north to send a message of unity and that “India is one”.
In a bid to reach out to the Left, Gandhi, 48, also said he wouldn’t say a word against the state’s CPI(M)-led LDF government during his campaign and that he would “absorb all its criticisms with happiness”. The Left is is miffed with Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad.
Wayanad will witness a triangular contest with Left Front constituent CPI’s P P Suneer and BJP-backed NDA candidate Thushar Vellappally also in the fray.
Gandhi, who was also accompanied by senior Congress leaders K C Venugopal and Mukul Wasnik, submitted the nomination papers before district collector A R Ajayakumar at Wayanad district headquarters in Kalpetta.
Hundreds of workers of Congress and other allies in the party-led UDF assembled outside the district collectorate as Gandhi filed the nomination. Wayanad, a scenic hill area in the Western Ghats of Kerala, has a presence of various ethnic tribal groups. It is a Congress stronghold in South India.
Braving the scorching heat, thousands of party workers–both men and women–gathered in Kalpetta town and its suburbs to have a glimpse of Rahul Gandhi.
After completing the nomination procedures at the collectorate, Rahul Gandhi along with Priyanka Gandhi and senior leaders of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala undertook a roadshow to greet the voters of the constituency.
The narrow lanes of Kalpetta town were packed with excited onlookers waiting in anticipation for the Congress chief and other party leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi.
Talking to reporters after filing his nomination, Rahul Gandhi said he was fighting the polls from down south to send a message that India was one.
“I have come to Kerala to send a message that India is one. South, north, east, west, centre… all are one… There is an assault taking place across the country by the RSS and BJP. I just want to send a message and I will stand from south India and north India. My aim was to give a message,” he said.
“There is a feeling in south India that the way the Narendra Modi government is functioning, their (south) culture, language, history all are being attacked.
“So I wanted to give a message that I will fight from north and south,” the Congress chief said, in response to his main opponent in Amethi, Union minister Smriti Irani, who had alleged that his decision to fight from Wayanad was an insult to the people of Amethi.
Priyanka Gandhi appealed to people of Wayanad to take care of her brother and assured he would not let them down.
“My brother, my truest friend, and by far the most courageous man I know. Take care of him Wayanad, he won’t let you down,” she tweeted after the roadshow.
Party workers shouted that they would ensure a thumping victory for Gandhi.
“We all are excited. All sections of people gathered here to greet our prime ministerial candidate. We will ensure a thumping victory for Rahul ji from the soil of Pazhassi Raja,” said Ashraf, a UDF worker, who came from Vandoor assembly constituency.
Gandhi said he would “absorb all the criticisms” of the ruling LDF which is miffed over his Wayanad candidature, and made it clear he will not speak against the Left parties during his campaign.
The CPI(M) and Congress have been locked in a fight in Kerala and it will go on, he told reporters, adding he wanted to send a message of unity.
“The CPI(M) and Congress have been locked in a fight in Kerala. This will go on. I understand that the CPI(M) has to fight me. But I am not going to say a word against them.
“I am here to send a message of unity that south India is important and I fully understand that the CPI(M) has to attack me. So I will absorb all their attacks with happiness, but from me you will not hear a word against them in my campaign,” Gandhi said.
He also said there were two main issues before the country–lack of jobs and agrarian crisis.
“Farmers are unaware of what the future holds for them. Youngsters are running from state to state searching for jobs and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi has failed on both the fronts,” he said while attacking the PM.
Attacking Modi on the issue of corruption, the Congress leader said, “The country had faith on the prime minister when he said he would be the Chowkidar. But the Chowkidar himself has given Anil Ambani Rs 30,000 crore of Air Force money.” The Centre and Anil Ambani have denied allegations of irregularities.
As the massive crowd of supporters gathered on both sides of the narrow roads of Kalpetta, security personnel had a tough time controlling the people to clear the way for vehicles.
Priyanka Gandhi, wearing a mustard and red border saree, and Rahul Gandhi waved to the crowd.
As the vehicle inched forward, the Congress president shook hands with many elated supporters.
People were seen clicking photos with their mobile phones and waving flags of Congress and its ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).
According to state Congress leaders, Rahul Gandhi has an emotional link with Wayanad.
An urn containing the ashes of Rahul’s father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was brought to Wayanad in 1991 and they were immersed in Papanasini, a stream connected to a famous temple dedicated to Lord Mahavishnu in picturesque Thirunelli village, recalled Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala.