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Home > News > India News > Article > Lok Sabha elections 2024 Rahul Gandhi is contesting against me I am not fighting against him

Lok Sabha elections 2024: ‘Rahul Gandhi is contesting against me. I am not fighting against him’

Updated on: 22 April,2024 07:31 AM IST  |  Wayanad
Vinod Kumar Menon | vinodm@mid-day.com

CPI’s Annie Raja challenges Congress titan in high-stakes battle for Wayanad

Lok Sabha elections 2024: ‘Rahul Gandhi is contesting against me. I am not fighting against him’

Annie Raja, CPI candidate for the Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad. Pics/Atul Kamble

It is a tall task that Annie Raja, the general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, has taken on as the Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate in the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency against Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi. She is a member of the CPI’s national executive and the wife of party general secretary D Raja.


Excerpts from the interview:


You are standing against Rahul Gandhi of the Congress, the sitting MP? What are the issues that Gandhi has not solved for the people of Wayanad?
You see, first of all, Rahul Gandhi is contesting against me, and it is not I who is contesting against him. The LDF announced the 20 candidates for all the 20 constituencies ahead of the election schedule, based on the fact that I came here (to Wayanad) on March 1. The contest here is between LDF and UDF. UDF much later decided on Gandhi, and he came here. That means Rahul Gandhi is contesting against me. I am not fighting against him.


Locals meeting Annie during her campaignLocals meeting Annie during her campaign

That is unfair...
You see, this is a democracy, and anyone can contest from any constituency. However, the current political situation in this country has put our democracy, secularism, and Constitution in danger because of the Sangh Parivar and the fascist government. That is the biggest danger the country is facing. We are fighting against it. The movement of the INDIA bloc is also to address these issues and defeat these Marxist forces. Despite that, Rahul has come to Kerala to fight against the Left. The Left is in the forefront of all these fights, and our leaders and cadres are facing a lot of cases against our fight against fascist forces. In the larger interests of the people and country, Rahul contesting elections shows the political bankruptcy of the Congress.

Rahul secured 64.7 per cent vote share from Wayanad, while CPI candidate P P Suneer came second, securing 25.1 per cent votes. How do you see the fortunes turn for the party with you as the candidate this time?
Before Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi represented Amethi. His decision to contest here reflects not just majority support but also how people perceive candidates and their stances. In a democracy, voters decide based on performance and alignment with their aspirations, not just previous margins of victory. Once an election is declared, there are only standing MPs and no sitting MPs. No one has given a constituency to the winner for generations together.

Nationally, the Left and Congress are part of the INDIA bloc. Is it not confusing for voters in Wayanad that you’re contesting against each other?
Voters in Wayanad are not confused. During my time here, they’ve asked if I’ll be like Rahul Gandhi. They explain that while the UDF projected him as prime minister, they voted for him as an individual, not just his party symbol. Despite this, their needs were overlooked in Parliament. When confidence in a candidate wanes, voters seek alternatives.

Annie Raja's rally vehicle was illuminatedAnnie Raja's rally vehicle was illuminated with series lighting

Could this situation have been avoided?
Certainly, Rahul, a national leader of the Congress and part of the INDIA bloc, could have foreseen that contesting from Wayanad would be exploited by the BJP, NDA, and especially the PM. He could have opted not to contest against the Left but chose to do so, challenging the CPI in Kerala. If Rahul’s aim was simply to secure a seat, he could have contested from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, or Telangana. Congress only won seats in Telangana through a tie-up with the Left. However, he chose to contest against the CPI in Wayanad.

Why has the party decided to pit you against Rahul Gandhi?
I’m a disciplined party cadre chosen to contest in Wayanad as part of the Left Front’s allocation of seats in Kerala. Over the past 40 years, I’ve diligently carried out party responsibilities in various regions.

Wild animal attacks on humans are increasing in this constituency. You have said the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 needs to be amended. How will that help?
Increasing human-animal conflicts are causing harm to both people and vegetation. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 needs amending to address this. With rising numbers of wild animals, including tigers and elephants, encroaching from neighbouring states, coupled with climate change impacts and water scarcity, urgent action is needed. Additionally, the persisting night travel ban from Karnataka is adversely affecting Wayanad’s economy, hindering trade and development. Rahul Gandhi could have intervened to resolve this issue at a lower administrative level.

Annie Raja interacting with locals ahead of voting in KeralaAnnie Raja interacting with locals ahead of voting in Kerala

What are your promises for the voters if you win?
Ans: If elected, I promise to stand by the people of the constituency. Addressing the human-animal conflict is crucial, and the Left government is taking steps within its legal boundaries. However, to find a lasting solution, we must amend the Wildlife Act of 1972, considering the changing climate and increasing animal populations. This issue extends beyond Wayanad and requires nationwide attention. I am confident in my ability to persuade MPs to support this amendment. Additionally, I will advocate for the completion of crucial infrastructure projects like the Nilambur-Nanjangud railway line.

How familiar are you with Wayanad and the voters’ issues?
I hail from Kannur, bordering Wayanad. Having experienced the challenges of man-animal conflicts firsthand, I understand the local issues deeply. From a young age, I’ve been involved in student movements and women’s organizations, serving as an organisational secretary for multiple districts. With 35 years of grassroots experience, I’m familiar with every panchayat in Wayanad. My life mirrors that of the people here, sharing their struggles and aspirations.

What changes have you noticed here over the years?
While Wayanad and Kerala have seen significant development, some projects like railways have lagged. The responsibility for rail projects rests with the Central Ministry of Railways. Additionally, the human-animal conflict poses a grave threat, damaging both lives and vegetation.

Annie Raja said her life mirrors that of people in WayanadAnnie Raja said her life mirrors that of people in Wayanad

The PM has predicted a double-digit win in Kerala for BJP
(Scoffs) I think he (PM) should bother about single digits. He is a man who boasts. This (Kerala) is a land of democracy and secularism.

Will the BJP’s well-known candidates lead to more victories in Kerala?
The Left has its own experienced leaders. Am I not well-known? All 20 Kerala constituencies feature reputable candidates. Shailaja teacher managed Nippa Virus and COVID-19 well. Shashi Tharoor is prominent. Suresh Gopi, a former Rajya Sabha MP, is also familiar.

What advice do you have for young and first-time voters in Wayanad?
Consider the past: UDF has held power for three terms, yet Wayanad’s issues persist. To foster development, vote for the Left. They uphold democracy and secularism, vital for our nation. My advice is to prioritise these values. I’m here to win, confident that voters, spanning generations, support my campaign.

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