Wayanad, Kerala: “If Amit Shah thinks that Wayanad is another Pakistan, why did the NDA have to field a candidate from here?”
V.K. Abdullah, a Kerala resident who hails from Kambalakkad in Wayanad, is furious. Other citizens of the hillock town too share his sentiment, days after BJP national president Amit Shah compared Wayanad to Pakistan, in response to a nomination filing rally of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
The presence of a lot of green flags of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) along with Congress flags at Gandhi’s rally made Shah raise the Pakistan bogey in Nagpur last week.
But Wayanad residents haven’t taken lightly to the diatribe.
“My best friend is Dr Mohanan and my other good friend is Mr John who lives close to my house. We have all lived in peace all these years. Why should someone make statements that could lead to disrupting our peaceful Wayanad?” asks Mohammad Fakrudeen, a local trader in Kalpetta.
“If Amit Shah does not know the difference between the Muslim League flag and that of Pakistan’s flag, it is certainly embarrassing to have politicians like him in our country,” said Wayanad-based Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader P.K. Mohananan.
“People will retaliate through the ballot. He has made a big mistake by saying so.”
Mohananan is not the only Left leader who has taken on Shah’s comment. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also slammed the BJP chief last week, saying “What does he know of Wayanad?”
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‘Shah is misrepresenting’
The BJP president’s statement has clearly left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its allies red-faced in the region.
Wayanad is an IUML stronghold. And though the BJP hasn’t made major claims about its ability to break into the vote base of the IUML, a Congress ally, Shah’s statement seems to be having a domino effect in other constituencies in Kerala, including Thrissur, Pathanamthitta, Palakkad, Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram, where they expect to do well.
Political analyst G. Pramod Kumar alleged the BJP campaign is diabolical in nature, and the party is trying to misrepresent such issues to polarise votes outside Kerala.
“The IUML flag looks like the Pakistan flag and they are attempting to create a stereotype among people who don’t know much about the IUML which is a national party,” Kumar told ThePrint.
“The BJP is trying to create an impression that Rahul has the support of pro-Pakistan Muslim votes. It will not have much impact on Kerala, but it may have an impact elsewhere,” he said.
“People in Kerala know what the IUML is about, but Shah is misrepresenting it.”
‘Kerala is a secular place’
At his camp office in Kalpetta, NDA’s Wayanad candidate Tushar Vellappally said Shah’s statements are being politically twisted.
Vellapally is chairperson of Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a BJP ally.
The BDJS chief said he’s giving a tough fight to the other candidates, and expressed confidence in securing votes from the region’s minorities too.
“I will surely get votes from the Muslim and Christian community as well as Hindus in Wayanad as I am close to all communities. Kerala is a secular place and people are secular in their mindset,” said Vellappally.
“Shah’s comments are being misinterpreted. He did not say this constituency is Pakistan. People with ulterior motives are quoting him wrongly.”
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Some are ‘clueless’ about Rahul Gandhi
Wayanad came into national focus after Congress president Gandhi chose to contest from the constituency as his second seat.
However, the tribals in the region, who form close to 18 per cent of the population, don’t seem to know who Gandhi is.
Although the roads leading to Wayanad are dotted with posters of Gandhi, ThePrint found most inhabitants near an adivasi hamlet clueless about the Congres chief.
“We don’t have proper houses and health centres. Our roads have been in a bad state after the heavy floods last year. We will vote, but we want whoever wins to give us basic food, water and shelter,” said Ammini, a young tribal lady.
“How long should be suffering like this?”
Wayanad is witnessing a three-cornered fight among Gandhi, Vellapally, and Communist Party of India’s P.P. Suneer.
Kerala goes to polls on 23 April to elect all its 20 Lok Sabha MPs.
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