Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed people in South India "feel hostility" from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he decided to contest from Wayanad in Kerala to send out the message that he stands with them.
The Congress announced on Sunday that party chief Gandhi will contest from Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, besides his traditional stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
"There is a feeling in South India, a very strong feeling in South India, that they are not being carried (along) by the current government. South India feels hostility from Mr Narendra Modi, they feel that they are not being included in the decisions of the country," Gandhi said.
"So, I wanted to send a message to South India that we are with you and I am standing with you. That is why I am standing from Kerala," he said in response to a question after the launch of the party's manifesto.
The Congress' announcement that the party chief will contest from Wayanad evoked sharp reactions from the Left and Right of the political spectrum.
The CPI-M and the CPI said the move signalled the Congress wanted to take on the Left which would work towards defeating him in the elections from Wayanad.
BJP chief Amit Shah reacted to the development saying Gandhi has "fled to Kerala as he fears that Amethi voters will seek an account from him".
Addressing a rally in Wardha, Maharashtra, on Monday, the prime minister said the Congress is scared to field its leaders from constituencies where the majority dominates in terms of voter-base.
He, however, did not name Gandhi.
The Congress is hoping to further consolidate its position this time in Kerala.
Top Congress leaders have contested from the South earlier as well.
Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi has in the past contested from the Bellary Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka, while Rahul Gandhi's grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, contested from Chikamangalur in Karnataka.
Wayanad district is in the north eastern part of Kerala and houses various tribal groups of the state. The area was badly affected due to last year's floods.