There is complete preparation for the return of power in Kerala to shed the charisma of former Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi. But, will ‘Rahul Jadoo’ work again as it did in the last Lok Sabha elections? Some developments following the United Democratic Front’s 2019 victory may undermine the party’s expectations.
The party’s strategy for the assembly elections was made clear by Mr. Gandhi’s speech at the conclusion of the UDF’s recent pre-election rally, where he made rare remarks against the Left.
There are many people who are doubtful about its success as the perception about Mr. Gandhi has changed significantly since 2019. His interventions in national politics are now seen as sporadic public appearances and are mostly limited to social media comments.
The victory of the UDF in LS elections is mainly attributed to Mr. Gandhi’s national image as a ‘secular liberal’ fighting the ‘right-wing Hindutva brigade’ led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. People from minority communities and those without political leanings thought that the Congress-led front could be a better opportunity at the national level as an alternative to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This, coupled with the revolt in political killings in northern Kerala, in which CPI (M) activists were accused and resentment against the control of the Left Democratic Front government over the Sabarimala issue, sealed the UDF victory. Congress leaders were also elected from Wayanad.
However, people’s response to issues such as Mr. Gandhi’s as well as his party’s Ayodhya Ram temple construction, agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), and farmers’ agitation have not increased confidence among those who previously supported Were.
Influential organizations such as the Forum of Sunni clerics Samastha Kerala Jamiyathul Ulema, which supports the UDF ally Indian Union Muslim League, were seen sharing the dais with the Left parties against the CAA.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra’s statement that ‘Bhoomipujan’ for the temple was a symbol of national unity, brotherhood and cultural harmony. Even giving a statement against the Congress brought parity.
The party is being accused of renouncing its secular credentials and following the soft Hindutva line in the north.
With the NDA wooing a section of the Christian community, fears have arisen over the erosion of the support base of UDF, another Congress vote bank. The impact of the party’s campaign blitzkrieg is characterized by Mr. Gandhi and Ms. Vadra in the coming days.