A day after Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited his new constituency for the second time in less than a fortnight, it is time to take stock of what’s in store on April 23. For the people of Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, spread over the three districts of Wayanad, Malppuram and Kozhikode, they are coming to terms with a new reality – a Gandhi scion as their regular representative in Parliament, going by Rahul’s public statement here on Wednesday, “I am not here for a couple of months..I want to have a lifelong relationship with you ”.
As the Rahul juggernaut rolled across Thirunelli, Sultan Battery, Thiruvambady and Wandoor, it was jubilation time in the Congress camp, as they know only too well the result is now a cinch.
And with a last-minute push coming from a string of star campaigners, ending with final flourish from Priyanka Gandhi, the local leaders cannot be faulted if an element of complacency creeps in. But, there is no room for any such thing.
Clearly, there is a direct correlation between the extent of his margin and the total polling percentage.
There are two possible scenarios: either the Congress party machinery should ramp up and get over 85 per cent of the 13.25 lakh voters to go out and cast their vote or work the numbers with less than 80 per cent polling and do some intricate statistical calculations and hope for a decent enough margin.
Thus, if the emerging scenario is 85 per cent polling, what we have as a base is 11,26,250 votes.
According to Viswanathan, a veteran politician of over three decades’ standing in Mananthavadiy, the trick for the Congress lies in taking up the polling to 85 per cent this time from a lowly 73.28 per cent in 2014.
“About one lakh youngsters from the region would be working either abroad or in the various IT companies in Bengaluru. The question is how many of them would make the effort to come home to cast their vote,” he says.
If about one lakh votes go to the NDA candidate Tushar Vellappally, which according to some pundits may not actually materialise given the community divide within the Hindutva vote base, then it is largely a toss-up between the LDF's PP Suneer and Rahul Gandhi.
Even the die-hard Congress workers grudgingly admit the CPM leaders have been really working out of their skin, unlike in the past, to garner votes for the CPI candidate.
But they are betting on many womenfolk who normally would’ve cast their vote for a LDF candidate, to be swayed by the charisma and innocence that Rahul Gandhi has brought to the electoral narrative this time.
“The crowds have started swelling for the UDF meetings. And the momentum is evidently shifting and that too at a rapid pace. There is no doubt that most people will go out and vote, if only to become a part of history and say I voted for Rahul Gandhi and thus become a part of a narrative that will be heard over the next five years,” says Gafoor Karumadan, a religious scholar based in Areecode who prides himself for being politically neutral.
Evidently, being a cadre party, the CPI and by extension the LDF would have a clear grip over the number of votes that will be cast in favour of P P Suneer.
According to Left supporter Unnikrshan Nair, consolidated votes of the LDF will never dip below 3,50,000 and one cannot rule out four lakh votes.
The counter from Congress is it can never be more than 3.5 lakh votes and even if 25,000 buffer is given, though that would be stretching it a bit, the votes cast for Rahul Gandhi would be about 6,51,500.
“That would result in a winning margin of just over 3 lakh votes for Rahul Gandhi. But we are quite hopeful of an even bigger margin,” says Dalby, once an ardent Congress worker in Nilambur, but now a lawyer in Kochi.
Clearly, the variables cannot be locked on the basis of black and white numbers like 80 per cent and 85 per cent. Because, the reality could either lie somewhere in between or go further up, once the Rahul magic starts working in over the next few days, ending with a blitzkrieg by Priyanka Gandhi seeking votes for her brother for two consecutive days, till the very last moment, literally.
The sceptics are betting on a best case scenario of 78 per cent polling or 10,33,500 voters turning out on April 23.
In which case, allowing for the UDF claim of all votes except NDA’s and the LDF’s being theirs, there would be 5,83,500 votes for Rahul.
In other words, a winning margin of 2,33,500.
On the contrary, if the polling touches 87 per cent, the winning margin for Rahul could start surging past 3,25,000 and inch closer to the magic figure of four lakh with each additional percentage of vote polled by the people of Wayanad .
Naturally, the Congress is convinced the scenario getting played out on the polling day would be in sync with the last cited variable.
Many of the local leaders also do not buy the argument that the opposition camps would poll 3.5 lakh and one lakh from LDF and NDA camps respectively.
In their opinion, it would be more in the range of 3.25 lakh and 85,000 respectively.
As a result, even if the polling does not cross 80 per cent, Rahul is still good for a victory margin of 3.5 lakh votes.
A lot would depend completely on the next few days, on how many indifferent voters get convinced to shed their apathy and finally hit the polling booths. It may be all about Brand Rahul and Brand Wayanad getting into a symbiotic relationship in the long run. For that, a logical prerequisite would be, if not a monstrous victory margin, surely a towering one.
(Vinod Mathew is a senior journalist who has been criss-crossing Wayanad constituency spread over three districts. He is heading Rahul Gandhi’s media cell in Wayanad).