From the forest emerges the dominant poll issue in Idukki

Electioneering in the constituency has mostly revolved around wildlife attacks, which claimed five lives in the past three months. The other concerns pertain to title deeds and construction ban in certain areas. Idukki has alternated between the UDF and the LDF since its inception in 1977. This time, the NDA will hope to increase its vote share

April 02, 2024 11:43 pm | Updated April 03, 2024 09:26 am IST - IDUKKI

Incursion of wild animals into human habitations has suddenly emerged as the most pressing electioneering issue for candidates in the Idukki Lok Sabha constituency. Five lives were lost in wild elephant attacks in the past three months in the mountainous district, with numerous other incidents being reported on the forest fringes recently. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, a prominent presence in the district, has protested against the ‘apathy’ of both the State and the Union governments in preventing the wildlife attacks.

Idukki, the largest district in the State, comprises seven Assembly constituencies — Kothamangalam, Muvattupuzha, Devikulam, Udumbanchola, Thodupuzha, Idukki, and Peerumade — spanning Ernakulam and Idukki districts. Of these, two are held by the United Democratic Front (UDF) while the Left Democratic Front (LDF) helms the remaining five.

Influential communities in the district include settler farmers, particularly the Syro-Malabar Catholics, and the Ezhava community. Tamil voters also wield significant influence in Devikulam, Peerumade, and Udumbanchola Assembly constituencies.

The candidates

The United Democratic Front (UDF) has once again nominated sitting MP Dean Kuriakose, banking on his landslide victory margin of 1,71,053 votes in the 2019 election. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) has fielded former High Range Samrakshana Samiti (HRSS) legal adviser Joice George, who successfully retained the Idukki seat for the LDF in the 2014 election.

The Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP, has nominated Sangeetha Vishwanathan in Idukki with hopes of increasing its vote share.

Since its establishment in 1977, the Idukki constituency has been alternating between the UDF and the LDF. In 2014, the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports on Western Ghats’ conservation took centre stage, triggering protests by the Idukki diocese. Widespread discontent among farmers, who perceived that the reports would negatively impact their lives and livelihood, led to the victory of Mr. George, the LDF-backed independent candidate, by a margin of over 50,000 votes.

Major changes

The political landscape in Idukki has undergone significant changes over the past decade, with the HRSS losing its influence in the district. Following the appointment of Mar John Nellikkunel as bishop, the Church has adopted a neutral stance on political matters. In the 2019 election, the UDF swept to power, securing 54.2% of the total votes polled, as against LDF’s 35.6%, and NDA’s 8.6%.

The other major issue being highlighted in the district is the Kerala Government Land Assignment (Amendment) Bill, 2023, currently awaiting approval from the Governor. The UDF and the LDF are vocal at the hustings with their vastly divergent versions of the Bill. Concerns over title deed issues and a construction ban in select areas of the district too are prime campaigning issues.

As per the latest figures, the Idukki constituency has 12,36,759 voters of whom 6,08,710 are men and 6,28,040 are women. There are nine transgender voters in the constituency.

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