As usual, the local satraps of the Congress party bungled initially: first came a euphoric announcement by AICC general secretary Oommen Chandy that Rahul Gandhi would contest from Wayanad; then there was a race among the various group leaders of the party claiming credit for it, followed by many days of confusion even as the high command maintained a studied silence over the matter, drawing a flurry of derisive comments from rival parties, both local and national. Then came the announcement by senior Congress leader AK Antony in Delhi about the Congress president’s decision to contest from this tribal belt in Kerala, an area steeped in poverty and agricultural crisis that saw hundreds of peasant suicides in the past decades.
Antony was right in describing the constituency as a tri-junction linking the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as it borders these provinces. It is also a constituency that reflects the true situation in most Indian villages: its sustenance is agriculture; most farmers hold only small patches of land and are generally steeped in debt and often receive less than sustainable returns for their produces. The crisis in Wayanad is multifaceted: farmers here have been seriously hit by the open-door policies of the post-globalization period, local products face intense competition from global markets, and relief measures like minimum support prices and debt relief doles have often been too little and have come too late.
There is not a single village in Wayanad that has not seen at least one person taking his life in desperation in recent times. They were victims of all kinds of disasters: both manmade and natural. While the global price fluctuations drove them out of the markets, natural disasters like extreme climatic conditions and widespread farm diseases destroyed everything they had nurtured. They have seen unprecedented droughts and floods in recent years, pointing to how global warming is taking its toll in these remote regions.