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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Updates: Rahul Gandhi To Contest From Raebareli

The Congress’s 11th-hour, early-morning decision on Amethi and Raebareli contained a big twist. Rahul Gandhi, who was expected to make an all-out bid to win back Amethi, has been announced as the party candidate from Raebareli, the seat vacated recently by his mother Sonia Gandhi when she moved to Rajya Sabha.

In Amethi, the family bastion which defected to the BJP five years ago, the Congress will be represented by Kishori Lal Sharma, a longtime loyalist of the Gandhi family. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could not be convinced to contest from Raebareli — which she had nursed for over a decade on her mother’s behalf.

Both candidates will file their papers today — the last day for filing nominations for the fifth phase of election on May 20.

The Congress decision was announced on Friday after weeks of suspense.

There is concern that the switch of seat for Rahul Gandhi could play into BJP hands, given Union minister Smriti Irani’s victory of 2019 in Amethi. The senior BJP leader is all set to defend the seat and has declared that the Congress delay was the result of cold feet, in view of her imminent victory.

In an exclusive interview with NDTV earlier this week, she said the leadership “is aware that this is a losing seat for them, because if they were so confident of their victory, they would have announced their candidate by now”.

Ms Vadra’s decision not to contest could add to the party’s discomfiture. Many leaders of the Congress suspect that it could create a negative perception that may add reflect on the outcome of the election across the country. Polling on 353 seats is still left, of which the Congress is contesting on 330 seats.

Sources said Ms Vadra’s reluctance stemmed from the fact that her victory from Raebareli could reinforce the BJP allegations of dynasty politics, since all three of them would be in parliament. Sonia Gandhi is already in Rajya Sabha and Rahul Gandhi has contested from Kerala’s Wayanad.

A victory for Mr Gandhi in both Raebareli and Wayanad could lead to a conundrum for the party, since he would have to vacate one of two seats which have equal claims on him.

If Raebareli is the decades-old family bastion, Wayanad is a Congress stronghold which had sent him to the Lok Sabha when Amethi had declined. But that is a bridge the Congress can cross another day.

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