High-range tourist spot Wayanad awaits Rahul's arrival

Congress president Rahul Gandhi. PTI file photo

The Congress camps in Kerala are jubilant over Rahul Gandhi's candidature from Wayanad, a high range district in north Kerala that shares borders with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Wayanad district, which is a sought after tourist destination, was in the news recently after the killing of a Left-wing extremist in an encounter with the police.

One of the martyrs of the Pulwama terror strike, Vasantha Kumar, also hailed from Wayanad.

The Wayanad constituency that was created in 2009 has been considered as a stronghold of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala in the Lok Sabha elections.

Congress leader M I Shanavaz, who died last year, won from Wayanad in the first elections in the newly formed constituency in 2009 and also in 2014.

In 2009, Shanavaz's victory margin was 1.53 lakh votes, a record majority in the state in that election. But in 2014, the margin plunged to  20,870 votes.

The constituency comprises of three Assembly segments of Wayanad district— Mananthavady, Kalpetta and Sultan Bathery—, three of Malappuram district Nilambur, Wandoor and Ernad— and Thiruvmabady of Kozhikode district.

There are 13.25 lakh voters in the constituency of which 6.7 lakh are female and 6.5 lakh male.

Though it is generally considered as a stronghold of the Congress-led UDF, in the 2016 Assembly elections the LDF won four of the seven Assembly segments, while in 2014 Lok Sabha elections the UDF had a majority in five constituencies.

The BJP had a little presence in the constituency. Its vote share was 8.8% in 2014, against a statewide vote share of 10.33%. UDF's vote share in Wayanad was 41.2% and LDF's was 38.9%.

As soon as Rahul's candidature was announced, Congress workers started celebrating by bursting crackers, raising slogan and dancing at party offices as if they had won the elections.

Senior Congress leader in the state and Opposition leader of the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, said that the Congress-led UDF would win all the 20 seats in Kerala as Rahul was contesting from the state.

The national general secretary of Indian Union Muslim League, a key ally of the Congress in Kerala, said that it was a matter of pride for Kerala that the future prime minister will be contesting from the state.

Rahul's decision to contest from Wayanad raises security concerns too.

Following the recent killing of a Left-wing extremist (LWE) leader at Wayanad, there were intelligence reports that the LWEs may try to retaliate during the election time.

The district is already under high alert.

Even Rahul’s plans to visit the house of Pulwama martyr’s family at Wayanad during his recent Kerala visit was also dropped reportedly owing to the threat perceptions.

With Rahul contesting from Wayanad, a tight security cover would have to be provided to the constituency.

 The Wayanad district was also in the news recently for the outbreak of Kyasanur Forest Disease, popularly known as Monkey fever. A person died and five people were infected by the disease.

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