RaGa's Wayanad is slowly coming to terms with newfound celeb status

RaGa's Wayanad is slowly coming to terms with newfound celeb status

Voters in the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, spread over three districts, are still convincing themselves that AICC president Rahul Gandhi was landing in the hilly township of Kalpetta, the district headquarters.

And that was not just to address an election rally but to file his nominations from the constituency.

The shock is visible all over the place, across party lines.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership, which usually takes the electioneering of Wayanad, a safe seat, quite casually, is still stunned to see the flow of youngsters from all over Kerala to take part in the campaigning.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF), which was hoping to grab the constituency keeping an eye on the low majority of 20,870 that M.I. Shanavas had managed in 2014, is still sulking in disbelief.

And the BJP, which is already trying out all tactics to rout Rahul in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, is stunned and confused on the strategies to adopt in Wayanad. Voters seemed to be the first to recover.

The RaGa portraits flood WhatsApp statuses of even non-Congress youth. And the fans are super excited.

RaGa's Wayanad is gradually getting into terms with celeb status
Rahul Gandhi offers prayers at Thirunelli temple in Wayanad.

"Often I wonder why I'm casting my vote even. But, there may be a change, if Rahul wins. Or else, even living will become impossible here," says Hassan who works in a beef stall near the bus stand at Mukkam.

Baburaj, whom we met in Mukkam town, had lost his job with Narendra Modi's currency ban.

Now, he is working as a security personnel at a construction site. With his meager salary even not enough to pay the bus fare, Baburaj is at a loss as to meeting the educational expenses of his growing children.

The road from Mukkam winds up towards Kakkadampoyil, which is known both for natural calamities as well as for the natural beauty that won it the nickname of 'Poor Man's Ooty.'

Recently, the name of Kakkadampoyil started to flash across the television screens as the location of the controversial water theme park of Nilmabur MLA P V Anwar, who is now the LDF candidate from the Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency.

The local market situated on the hilltop offers a view of the theme park and villas on the opposite hill. The marks of the landslide are also visible.

"That landslide was a creation of the media and politicians. Look at that nearby hill, which is under the Forest Department. Landslide has also happened there, is it because of the park?" Asks Ullattil Jose, a local farmer.

Jose fears that the controversies would stall developmental projects in the locality.

Meanwhile, a woman buying vegetables at the local store nearby got into an argument with the shop owner.

She didn't have a spare change of Rs. 5.

"With this currency ban, all trade came to a halt. The farmers are not getting fare prices. However, the middlemen still make money, nothing can change that," he rues.

Wayanad Lok Sabha Constituency | Elections 2019

The Eranadan trip

The journey from Kakkadampoyil to Therattammal in Eranad Assembly constituency in Malappuram district is through a forest route.

Mobile phone signals fail to reach the undulating terrain. However, Therattammal is home to international players. The smell of football wafts in the air over Therattammal.

In the office of Therattammal Soccer Academy, hailed the Barcelona of Malabar's Sevens football teams, trophies won during each season are lined up.

People standing on the verandah of nearby Oorngattiri Panchayath Pravasi Haritha Cooperative Society argue over the majority by which Rahul would win.

They have no doubts about the winner, only about the majority. The reasons are the same as told by the shopkeepers of Kakkadampoyil. Society president V.P. Rauf spoke about the hardships faced by the Gulf-returnees, who were forced to leave the Promised Land following the economic crises overseas.

"Even getting a bank loan is tough. Those who have money hardly dare to make any investments?"

LDF campaign

Wayanad Lok Sabha Constituency

The Left Front is leaving no stones unturned in the campaign of its candidate P.P.Suneer who had the benefits of an early start. The CPI-M, which usually becomes the target of CPI's complaints of neglecting the LDF ally's candidates, has doubled its efforts this time.

Batheri witnessed rainfall during the visits of both Rahul and the CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Posters flaunting Thushar Vellappally, the NDA candidate, and Narendra Modi dot the road from Nilambur to Wayand. However, it could be doubted if Thushar's posters are outnumbered by the 'jackfruit' symbol of an independent candidate.

RaGa's Wayanad is gradually getting into terms with celeb status
Sitaram Yechury and Rahul Gandhi. File photo

Someone quipped that the posters do not carry the pictures of BJP leaders from Kerala as Thushar's Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) was engaging in direct discussions with the BJP's national leadership.

Thushar was earlier supposed to contest from Thrissur, but later opted to take on Rahul here.

The NDA's calculations are based on the votes of the majority community who account for 41 percent of the voters in the constituency.

Agrarian distress

Whether it's Malappuram or Wayanad, the problems faced by the people are the same.

Thottakkara Kunjumuhammed, who works among the tribal communities, points out that the tribals are struggling as farming practices are slowly vanishing.

Almost 73 percent of farm lands in Wayanad district (from the time it was formed) have vanished now.

And in the existing farm land, there is not much of agricultural activity.

The tribal people are exploited regardless of the government that comes into power.

Kunjumuhammed took us to the colony of the Paniya tribals in Thattor, Chethalayam.

"Do you know that Rahul Gandhi is contesting the elections from Wayanad?" The question was posed to Chunda, a resident of the colony. He does not even know his own age. Chunda is a relative of Mani, who won the State Award for the best child actor, being the first film actor to win the accolade from tribals.

Chunda mistook the photographer accompanying us as Rahul Gandhi!

Kunjumuhammed pointed out that this was the case of political literacy in the tribal colonies.

Will there be any change in that situation? After May 23, the winner from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency should figure out the answer.

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