The congress is abuzz with speculation that former party president Sonia Gandhi may not be able to contest Lok Sabha elections in 2024 due to her poor health. Therefore, some sources suggest, she may be given a Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka after her tenure in the Lok Sabha expires.
Talking to The Sunday Guardian, a senior leader closely associated with the management of Congress pocket borough Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency, said, “There is no indication from the top that she would not contest the upcoming elections. Even if it is such, she is already the Member of Parliament and she shouldn’t announce it this early. There is still a lot of time left for preparations for general elections.”
Aditya Rathi, a political analyst based in Uttar Pradesh, told The Sunday Guardian, “The reason that Sonia Gandhi wouldn’t want to announce it right now is that in Rae Bareli constituency, there are several families who still, with all their heart, support and vote for Sonia Gandhi and an early announcement could hurt their spirit. That is why they want to keep the issue as it is and would want to announce it as they choose the replacement candidate.”
Since Independence, the party lost the seat first time in 1977 to Janata Dal leader Raj Narain and after around two decades lost again to BJP’s Ashok Singh in 1996. In 1998 when the general elections were held again, Ashok Singh had retained the seats. However, after that Congress won back the seat in 1999 and never lost it again. To make it brief, the party has won the seat 17 times since Independence and lost the seat only thrice, twice to BJP and once to Janata Party. Moreover, since 2004, Sonia Gandhi has been consecutively winning the seat. Thus, the party wants to retain the seat with increased winning margin to send a strong message across in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Therefore, as it seems, it is not clear who would replace Sonia Gandhi but a section of Congress leaders want the seat to remain with the family, which has therefore given air to speculation that the seat may be contested by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who has, on several political occasions, been involved in intra party politics and public outreach of Rae Bareli in the recent past. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would often visit her mother’s constituency of Rae Bareli where she would deal with the people directly. Moreover, in the 2004 general elections, she was her mother’s campaign manager and also helped supervise her brother Rahul Gandhi’s campaign. And in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, while Rahul Gandhi managed the statewide campaign, she focused on the 10 seats in the Amethi-Rae Bareli region, spending two weeks there trying to quell considerable infighting within the party workers over seat allocations. A source said, “Though Priyanka Vadra has resisted direct involvement in politics before her official entry in to politics in 2019, she played active roles in election campaign for her mother. As she dealt with the people directly, it made her a popular figure in the constituency with mass support.”