Lok Sabha election 2019: Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad choice may boost Congress prospects in other southern states
Rahul Gandhi’s entry in north Kerala’s Wayanad parliamentary constituency has created ripples in national politics and Congress leaders feel his southern sojourn will also help the party immensely not just in the state but entire south India.
Celebrations in the picturesque district perched on the Western Ghats are yet to settle as people are basking in the new-found glory after Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad.
“This is the first time a PM candidate is contesting in the state. It is a great honour for the whole south. We will ensure south India’s biggest margin to him,” said Congress leader Aryadan Shoukat adding his entry will help the party in at least 50 constituencies in the south.
There are 130 constituencies in the south and the Congress president’s decision to contest from Wayanad will help the party in at least half of the seats, other leaders also say.
Political pundits also say Rahul Gandhi’s selection of Wayanad constituency, a strategically important trijunction in Kerala which shares borders with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, will help the Congress to consolidate its position in the south and pip the BJP’s possible advantage in north India.
“The selection of Wayanad is a well-calculated move. His entry will also help a polarisation of minority communities. It is quite evident in Kerala that makes the Left uncomfortable. His surgical strike will also affect the saffron party which is riding on Sabarimala wave in the state,” said political commentator Sunnykutty Abraham.
Gandhi is taking on Communist Party of India’s (CPI’s) PP Suneer and NDA’s Thushar Vellapally - all the three major candidates are below 50 years of age. Vellappally is the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) president and his party has an alliance with the BJP in Kerala.
The Congress party is also planning to fan a message that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was singling out south and it wants to make his so-called “hostile approach” a poll issue.
Gandhi will file papers on Thursday and the state Congress committee has given a call to celebrate the occasion. He will reach Kozhikode on Wednesday evening and stay in the city and proceed to district headquarters in Kalpetta the next day, said the president of the party’s state unit Mullapally Ramachandran.
“We are not bothered about concerns of our rivals. Worried, they are coming out with many theories,” he said.
But Left leaders say that the Rahul wave theory was a misnomer.
“His presence in Amethi could not make any wave in Uttar Pradesh. When his grandmother contested in Chikmagalur four decades ago, there was no wave,” said CPI(M) leader Anathalavattom Anandan.
Anandan also said that by choosing Kerala he has given a clear message that Left is his rival and not the Bharatiya Janata Party.
But voters do say they are least bothered about controversies and feel his entry has put the little-known constituency on the world map and it will also help bring development to the backward district where tourism and cash crops are the mainstays.
Kerala is going to the poll in the third stage of the seven-phase Lok Sabha election on April 23 and the last date for filing nominations is April 4.
The BJP is also planning to make his choice a poll issue, saying minority concentration in the constituency was the main reason for him to choose Wayanad. Hindus form 49.48%, Muslim 28.65%, Christians 21.34% and others 0.53% of the population.
Residents, however, say they are upset with the BJP’s statement that the Congress president fled to a minority constituency.
“Religious divide is a passé in a state like Kerala. It is sad to brand our constituency like this,” said one of them.
There is an old story about how Wayanad was discovered. After winding roads and many hairpin bends on way to the district headquarters one can see a huge tree bound in iron chains in Lakkidi. It is believed a tribal leader Karinthandan had helped the British to find a way to Wayanad through Thamarasserry Ghats.
After clearing the way the British engineer is believed to have killed Karinthandan fearing he could show the new route to others too. Once Englishmen built a new road, accidents were common. It is believed a known sorcerer intervened and tied the roaming soul of Karinthandan to a big tree and chained it. All vehicles passing through the area pray before this chained tree.
NDA candidate Vellapally started his campaign from here. And, Congress leaders are also planning to take Gandhi to the tree temple, one of the main tourist spots in the district.