People wait in long queues to cast their votes at a polling station at Batheri in Wayanad
Dubbed as a crucial seat following Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s candidature, the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency on Tuesday registered a record polling of 79.77 per cent against the 73.25 per cent registered in the 2014 elections, despite heavy rainfall across the day. Kerala witnessed an overall voter turnout of 76.82 per cent.
The BJP-NDA lodged a complaint against Gandhi alleging he openly canvassed for votes through twitter even while polling was on in the hill constituency. They alleged that he canvassed for votes even after the time limit to openly campaign in the constituency ended at 5 pm on April 21.
Buoyed by the large turnout, the Congress-led UDF claimed a 'record breaking margin' for Gandhi in Wayanad when the votes are counted on May 23.
The CPI-M-led LDF admitted that Gandhis candidature was the reason for the massive turnout in polling stations but claimed that the hard work done by the Left workers for their candidate P P Suneer also contributed towards it.
"He (Rahul) will get record-breaking margin in Wayanad," AICC general sSecretary K C Venugopal, who led Gandhis campaign in the hill constituency, told PTI.
The senior congress leader also claimed that there was a 'Rahul wave' across Kerala.
"The huge turnout of the people in the elections in Wayanad and other constituencies is a befitting reply by people of Kerala to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah for their divisive political agenda," he said.
Shah had branded Wayanad as part of Pakistan during election campaign, Venugopal alleged.
Shah, apparently referring to the green flags of UDF ally the Indian Union Muslim League, seen during the rally organised in Kalpetta soon after Gandhi filed his papers on April 4, had reportedly said Gandhi was contesting from such a seat where when a roadshow was organised "one cannot make out whether the place is India or Pakistan."
His remarks were condemned by the Congress and CPI(M).
Venugopal claimed people were upset with the LDF government and the BJP over playing politics on Sabarimala women entry issue.
The sentiments of the devotees of Lord Ayyappa were in favour of the Congress-led UDF, he said.
Venugopal said people are aware that it was the previous Oommen Chandy-led government that took a sincere stand in the Supreme Court, saying the customs of the hill shrine should not be violated.
Senior IUML leader Sayyid Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal, who campaigned for Gandhi, also claimed there was a Rahul wave in Wayanad.
"The huge turnout of people including women and youngsters for casting their votes clearly indicate it..... The people see it as an opportunity to vote for their Prime Ministerial candidate," Thangal told PTI.
CPI Wayanad district secretary Vijayan Cherukara said Rahul factor was one of the reasons for an increased turnout of the voters.
"It does not mean that Gandhi is going to get a record breaking margin in Wayanad. It is also because of our hard work done at the grassroot level to mobilise maximum votes for our candidate Suneer," Cherukara said.
NDA candidate Thushar Vellapallys Chief poll agent Sinil Kumar G said the fight in Wayanad was between the NDA and UPA in Wayanad.
"Wayanad is a backward hilly region. They need good roads and other basic infrastructure facilities. The people are aware that only a Modi-led government can unleash development in hill district," Suneer said.
The Wayanad parliamentary constituency on the slopes of the Western Ghats in Kerala shot into the limelight after the congress president chose to contest from there besides his family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
He is facing CPI's Suneer fielded by Kerala's ruling LDF on the soil of legendary king Pazhassi Raja who fought a guerilla war against British colonialists.
The NDA has fielded Thushar Vellappally of Bharat Dharma Jana Sena from the constituency comprising seven assembly segments in Wayanad, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts.
The Wayanad seat, which was created in 2009, shares its borders with Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and Mysuru in Karnataka.
It is predominantly rural and of its seven assembly segments, three are in Wayanad district, three in Malappuram and one in Kozhikode district.
Two assembly segments in the constituency -- Sulthan Bathery and Mananthavady -- are reserved for tribals who constitute around 18 per cent of the Wayanad's population. Vandoor in Malappuram district is reserved for Scheduled Caste.
Women voters are more in number compared to men in the Lok Sabha seat which has a total of 13,57,819 electors. There are 6,84,807 women voters and 6,73,011 men voters.
There is only one third gender elector in the constituency. Of the 13,57,819 voters, 2,951 are overseas electors.
Senior Congress leader M I Shanavas, who died last year, had been winning the seat ever since the constituency was carved out in 2009.
He had trounced CPI's M Rahmatullah by over 1.5 lakh votes in 2009 and defeated CPI leader Sathyan Mokeri by a margin of 20,000 votes in 2014.
Wayanad has significant Muslim and Christian population.
The Indian Union Muslim League, a major political force in the constituency, is a key ally of the Congress in the State.
Christians, whose forefathers had migrated from Travancore region at least three generations back, form a big electoral block in the constituency.
(With PTI inputs)