Wayanad: From the moment it was announced that Congress President Rahul Gandhi will contest the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, for many his victory was a foregone conclusion. The opposition disagrees.
For those who insist that Gandhi’s victory from this hilly region is a certainty, the only point of debate is his victory margin.
The 20 parliamentary constituencies in Kerala, including Wayanad, go to the polls in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections on Tuesday.
There was a period of indecision after former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy first talked about Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad, with the CPI-M-led Left and the BJP-led NDA taking potshots at the proposed move.
But when the announcement finally came, the Congress leadership and its rank and file were ecstatic.
This became evident when Gandhi, accompanied by his sister and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, arrived here on April 4 to file his nomination.
While there are 19 other contestants in Wayanad apart from Gandhi, the highest among all the other Lok Sabha seats in the state, his main opponents are P.P. Suneer of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the NDA-backed Bharath Dharma Jana Sena’s (BDJS) Thushar Vellapally.
The constituency has around 1,325,788 voters, including 670,002 women and 655,786 men. In 2014, the seat was won by M.I. Shanavas of the Congress who beat CPI’s Sathyan Mokeri by 20,870 votes.
Chandy told IANS that Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad had made every party opposed to the Congress jittery. He said that on the last day of campaign, there was a Gandhi wave, not just in Wayanad, but across Kerala as well as the neighbouring states.
“The only drawback of our campaign is that we never had the resources like what is being pumped in by the Left and NDA in Wayanad. All I can tell you now is that he (Gandhi) will come out with flying colours and win by the biggest ever margin,” said Chandy.
The Wayanad Lok Sabha seat came into being in 2009 when it was carved out of the erstwhile Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram constituencies.
In 2009, Wayanad handed Congress’ late M.I. Shanavas, who hailed from Kochi, his first electoral victory after the veteran tasted defeat in a number of elections from different constituencies in the state.
Shanavas defeated M. Rahmathulla of the CPI by over 1.5 lakh votes.
Though Shanavas was re-elected from Wayanad in 2014, his victory margin was reduced to 20,870 votes as there was a general impression that he failed to live up to the expectations of the people.
Shanavas (67) passed away in November 2018 and since then the Wayanad seat was vacant.
However, M.V. Shreyams Kumar, one of the campaign managers for the Left in Wayanad and a Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) leader, doesn’t see a Gandhi wave in the region.
“I don’t see any wave favouring Gandhi. We held a roadshow here on Saturday and the turnout was massive. The morale of the Left cadres is high. The Congress has failed to live up to the electorate’s expectations in the past 10 years,” said Kumar, a media baron and two-time former legislator who represented the Kalpetta Assembly constituency in Wayanad.
However, Jayan Komath, who is managing Gandhi’s war room here, is confident that a Gandhi wave is sweeping the constituency.
“The mood is definitely palpable and one can sense it… The icing on the cake was Priyanka’s visit on Saturday. She touched people’s hearts with her frank opinions about her brother. We are predicting a victory margin beyond the four-lakh mark,” said Komath.
Meanwhile, CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has slammed Gandhi, saying that despite winning from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, the Congress President failed to help his party win even a single Assembly constituency from there.
“There is no Gandhi wave. It has now been proved that the Congress can never be an alternative to the BJP. The one reason why Gandhi decided to run away from Amethi and contest from here is the guilt for the wrong policies of the Congress, which has sounded the death knell for the farmers,” Balakrishnan said.