For people in Wayanad district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, it was a business-as-usual day on Thursday, as Lok Sabha election numbers and results rolled out. For them, there was little need for big celebrations, as it was a foregone conclusion that Rahul Gandhi (48), president of the Congress party, and ‘Prime Ministerial candidate’, as many locals saw him, would win. He did so with a record lead of more than 400,000 votes over his nearest rival.
His main rival in the contest for the seat from the constituency to the lower house of India’s Parliament was PP Suneer (51) of the Communist Party of India. And, unlike elsewhere in the country, the Congress swept a majority of the 20-constituency state of Kerala, based on results from the Election Commission of India.
Wayanad is a rural district located amidst the green hills of the Western Ghats. It is dependent on its cash crops including coffee, pepper and other spices, and on tourism. Locals are facing problems in each of these sectors and have other issues such as lack of good hospitals, for instance. And Suneer is widely seen as a politician very aware of the local conditions. Yet, Rahul Gandhi’s national presence has trumped all that.
“He is a gentleman, that’s what I think, and he is a national figure,” said Anish Baby, an aluminium fabrication technician. “I don’t know what else to say, I don’t speak English or Hindi,” he added, speaking his native tongue of Malayalam. It was a theme repeated by other locals Forbes India spoke to. People identified themselves with the language at least as much as their religion, if not more, in a constituency dominated by Muslim and Christian voters.
“No English, no Hindi, only Malayalam,” said Biju, a man in his early thirties who didn’t want to say anything more about himself. “And Rahul Gandhi is Prime Minister candidate.”