Rahul’s ‘north-south’ gaffe can be disastrous for Congress

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·3 min read

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and controversy are like Siamese twins: inseparable. Rahul’s statement at a rally in Wayanad in Kerala has created flutters, with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party baying for his blood.

Even senior Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal have criticised Rahul’s remark saying that the wisdom of voters must be respected. Others have left it to the Congress scion to explain his statement.

So what did Rahul say?

“My experience now since I have been an MP, I have also got to understand the wisdom of the people of Kerala. For the first 15 years I was an MP in the north. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me coming to Kerala was very refreshing because suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in the issues,” said Rahul.

On the look of it, looks like a harmless statement. He was in the state to boost the prospects of his party in Kerala.

The state has a history of overthrowing incumbent governments. This time it is grand old party’s chance to win elections as per the trend.

However, the party lost to the Left Democratic Front in the recently concluded local polls. It’s long term ally, the Kerala Congress (M) which has a sizeable support among the 18% Christian community has jumped ship and joined LDF.

Infighting and weak leadership have prompted the party to call back former Kerala chief minister Oomen Chandy to lead the campaign, despite his ill health and old age.

The Congress is on a sticky wicket, as per opinion polls and the LDF is expected to retain power, the first incumbent to do so in the last 4 decades. 

Essentially, Rahul was buttering up the people of the state to vote for the Congress.

However, a deeper analysis shows that Rahul has still not recovered from the loss in Amethi. Unhone dil pe le liya hai haar ko.

The Congress has literally been wiped out in the north India, the Hindi heartland. It has no Member of Parliament from Delhi, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, only one MP each from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The Congress party won 60% of its seats from the southern part of India. This is the only region where it was not trailing to the BJP. While the Congress won 31, BJP won 25 seats in south India. South India accounts for 25% of total seats in Lok Sabha.

The ‘North versus South’ debate has been fanned by opposition parties earlier as well. In the past, views like ‘south has a higher literacy rate and that’s why it rejected the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections’, have been doing the rounds.

Another theory which has been propagated is that ‘south India’s contribution to national GDP is more than that of north India’, while north has higher representation in Lok Sabha. For the rich south India, rest of the country is a tax burden.

This politics of sub/regional nationalism is good for regional parties to play. 

National parties like Congress should refrain from doing such politics. This is likely to further weaken the Congress in the Hindi heartland. Even in southern states, apart from Kerala and Karnataka, the Congress is weak in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In Tamil Nadu, it has been piggybacking on DMK for a long time.

Rahul Gandhi should be careful with his choice of words in his speeches. Even though he may not have intended to say what has been ascribed to his statement, he should be aware that the BJP follows his speeches closely and would never let go such an opportunity.

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