‘Seventy five-year-old Machy says she hasn’t witnessed any major progress in her life. The amenities she can access have more or less remained the same, she says, and it’s true for the tribal hamlet of Maikkara in Wayanad’s Muthanga, where she lives. The hamlet has 25 houses, each of them a one-room structure, with a rare two-room home in their midst. “There is no employment, and no consistent or sufficient income,” Machy says, as her granddaughter, who has recently given birth, is lying down on the floor with the baby.
But one thing that has got Machy excited is the candidature of Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad. She and many others in Wayanad believe that Rahul Gandhi’s arrival in their constituency will mean development for them.
“Normally, we vote for a party, irrespective of who the candidate is,” says Latha, another resident of Maikkara, “But this time, we will only vote for Rahul Gandhi.”
The enthusiasm is palpable in Wayanad when Rahul Gandhi visits to file his nominations on April 4. "We are happy he’s contesting from here, this is good news for us,” says Appu of Anacamp tribal hamlet in Muthanga, as his wife Kalyani nods in agreement.
“Only those who are blind party workers will vote this time irrespective of the candidate,” says Sukumaran, a farmer who also runs a shop at Moolankave, “A leader like Rahul Gandhi can meet all our needs.” Some of the issues on his mind are the ban on night travel on the borders with Mysuru and Bengaluru, the demand for a medical college in the region, and railway connectivity for Wayanad. “Rahul Gandhi can function well at the national level. Also, it was the UPA government that brought in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and it is the Congress manifesto that has promised a minimum income for all,” he says.
“The fact that Rahul is contesting from Wayanad itself has put us on the national or even the global map. He is a potential Prime Ministerial candidate. Even if he does not visit, if he is representing our constituency, I am sure Wayanad will be in good hands,” says Manoharan, a restaurant owner from Kalpetta.
However, while several people are sure that Wayanad will benefit from Rahul Gandhi’s candidacy, there are others who are skeptical of having a high profile MP for their constituency.
“Many were disappointed with MI Shanavas, the previous Congress MP from Wayanad. Although he was elected for two terms, in the last term he won only by a margin of 20,000 votes – and that’s primarily because he never visited Wayanad the previous term. Even if Rahul Gandhi wins, we fear that he will not have the time to look out for our needs as he is a very busy national leader. We can’t go to Delhi for everything,” Radhamani, a retired government employee says.
The Left counters
“The people of Wayanad don’t need an MP who would wave at them while flying in a helicopter,” says advocate K Gheevarghese, election committee General Convenor of the LDF at Sultan Bathery, “A people’s representative should be one who is approachable.”
LDF candidate, PP Suneer of the Left has already completed many rounds of campaigning in Wayanad even before Rahul finalised Wayanad as his second seat.
“Last time their majority was just 20,000 votes. And in Wayanad region, the lead was for the LDF,” he adds.
With Inputs from Sreedevi Jayarajan