Wayanad | Local issues hog limelight in this high-profile constituency

Rahul Gandhi’s second seat in Wayanad sparks a three-way battle in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Updated - March 27, 2024 10:39 pm IST

Published - March 27, 2024 09:54 pm IST - KALPETTA



The novelty of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi contesting his second seat from Wayanad catapulted this hill constituency, spread across Wayanad, Kozhikode, and Malappuram districts, into the national limelight in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

That factor may have withered away now but his landslide victory of more than 4.3 lakh votes over Left Democratic Front candidate P.P. Suneer is still etched in the electoral history of Wayanad.

Now, as the political stage is set anew, the LDF has fielded Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women and national executive member of the Communist Party of India, to challenge Mr. Gandhi’s dominance.

The Bharatiya Janata Party surprised observers by nominating its State unit president K. Surendran as its candidate. The party hopes to shake up the status quo in spite of the party having little stake in the constituency. In the previous election, Thushar Vellappally, president of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, a BJP ally, managed to secure only 7.25% of the votes.

The prospects of two formidable contenders from the INDIA bloc facing off, alongside a State president of a ruling party at the Centre, transforms Wayanad’s electioneering into a three-way battle.

This time, Mr. Gandhi is in the fray after the two editions of his yatra — Bharat Jodo Yatra and Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra — traversing a distance over 10,000 km. Besides, he had successfully fought a legal battle in which the Supreme Court granted a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case . This paved the way for his return to Parliament.

While Ms. Raja is running for the first time in the Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Surendran had contested twice from Kasaragod and last time from Pathanamthitta.

Considered a United Democratic Front (UDF) bastion, Mr. Gandhi had secured huge leads in all the seven Assembly segments in the range of 50,000 to 70,000 votes in 2019. The late Congress leader M.I. Shanavas had won this seat by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes since its inception in 2009, but his victory margin had come down to 20,000 in 2014.

The constituency comprises three Assembly segments in Wayanad — Kalpetta, Mananthavady, and Sulthan Bathery; Thiruvambady in Kozhikode, and Eranad, Nilambur, and Wandoor in Malappuram. In the 2021 Assembly polls, the LDF won Mananthavady, Thiruvambady and Nilambur and the UDF Sulthan Bathery, Kalpetta, Eranad, and Wandoor.

Muslims account for 46% of the electorate, Hindus 40%, Christians 13%, and others less than 1% in Wayanad constituency.

Recurring human-wildlife conflicts, night traffic ban in Bandipur Tiger Reserve on national highway 766 and Mananthavady- Bavali inter-State highway, dearth of medical facilities, delay in materialising the Nilambur-Nanjangud railway line, and alternative roads to Wayanad dominate the poll scenario.

Wayanad’s electorate includes 7,05,128 men, 7,24,637 women, and 14 transgender voters.

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