Rahul Gandhi is close to people's hearts in Kerala and in Wyanad

The Congress MP enjoys considerable goodwill in Kerala and rightly or wrongly people believe he, unlike most North Indian politicians, knows and understands South India much better

Rahul Gandhi is close to people's hearts in Kerala and in Wyanad

Alex Chandy

When Rahul Gandhi decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from a second constituency, not sure of what Amethi had in store for him, he did not have to scout around for a place because he knew the Malayalees had a soft corner for the Gandhis. Kerala therefore, was his best bet and senior Congress leaders chose Wayanad for him.

The result was an overwhelming victory and the victory margin of over four lakh votes was beyond expectations of most peo- ple, even those who hail from the “green paradise”, as the district, nestled in the mountains of Western Ghats is known.

Yes, the Gandhis are close to the hearts of the people of Kerala. The older generation fondly remembers Indira Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi is far from forgotten in the state and Rahul connects easily with the Malayalees.

Uma Thomas, still receiving accolades for her big win in the byelection to the Thrikkakara constituency in Ernakulam district on June 3, 2022 asks, “Why won’t anyone like the Gandhis. Sonia Gandhi called me when PT was in hospital." PT Thomas, Uma’s husband, was the Thrikkakara MLA. He died last December.

“Sonia’s comforting words meant a lot to me. She cares. And that’s precisely what peo- ple want. A caring leader who is concerned about everyone’s well-being. A leader who can recognise and understand the pain and distress of others. That’s the kind of persons I see in Sonia and Rahul Gandhi,” Uma said. “As for Rahul, I saw his acceptance by the people of Wayanad during the Parliamentary elections. I have wonderful memories of the campaign having seen them from close quar- ters. My thoughts went back to the family which has sacrificed so much for the country. Rahul, like his late father, is humble and humility is a quality which Keralites like.”

Is that what makes Rahul a favourite? The people of Wayanad reflected the sentiment of most Malayalees. “Votes polled by the supporters of Congress alone would not have fetched him the huge win. I am sure follow- ers of other parties too voted for him,” feels KL Paulose, a former DCC president and presently KPCC executive member.

There was a lot of enthusiasm as people from all walks of life came out to cast their votes. The youth, the tribals, the women, young and old made it all happen, he said.

Abdul Sathar, owner of Hotel Wilton, is a happy man today. He says Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the hotel on one of his trips at elec- tion time has done immense good to his business. “The popularity has increased manifold and there are more visitors, locals and tourists, coming to us now,” Sathar said with a smile. “The minute they got to know Rahul was coming, people flocked to the hotel for a glimpse of the Congress leader. Soon we had a huge crowd outside the hotel.”

Situated on the winding roads of Sultan Bathery, the hotel with its restaurant has become a favourite joint for tourists in particular.

“He has no airs and speaks no lies and is forthright. He stands by what he says and says only what he can stand by. Those are qualities of a good leader,” feels Biju Sivaraman AICC coordinator of North Kerala.

“What I like about him most is that he is a people’s person. Someone who is practical and close to reality and accepts other people as equals. That’s why you will often see him break away from security to enquire about the welfare of peple, or even get into any restaurant for a cup of tea,” Biju said.

Clearly the Congress MP has a special place in the hearts of many a Keralite. Unlike most other North Indian politicians who are grossly ignorant about Southern India, feels Rev. Philip Simon, priest of a Mar Thoma Church in Thiruvalla, the Gandhis seem to understand and feel for South India. A keen follower of politics in the coun- try, Rev. Simon says Rahul is seen as "our hope and aspirations". "We see him as a faithful and just leader. The state will get a better deal under his leadership, we all believe," he added.

(Based in Kochi, the writer is an independent commentator)

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