THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Promises of welfare and development hold the key in Lakshadweep islands, one of the smallest Lok Sabha constituencies in the country in terms of voters, which is going to the polls in the first phase on Thursday. As Lakshadweep gears up for the poll battle, it’s a direct fight between the once UPA allies Congress and the NCP.
Once a Congress stronghold, the constituency has been with the late Congress leader PM Sayeed for a long period from 1967 to 1999. In 2004, he lost to a JD(U) candidate. In 2009, Sayeed’s son Hamdulla Sayeed won back the seat. However, NCP’s Mohammed Faisal wrested the constituency in 2014 with a majority of 1,535 votes. This time again, incumbent MP Mohammed Faisal is taking on Hamdulla Sayeed.
“The welfare projects implemented for islanders are being discussed in detail here. The NCP has been seeking votes, riding on a major insurance scheme - Rs 5 lakh for each - implemented for voters who are not government employees,” said Cheriya Koya, one of the voters.
A slew of other matters, including the recent decision sanctioning five new vessels to the islands and sorting out of issues related to online ticketing facility, are also being discussed. “In the islands, there was no disaster relief fund. However, an administrative relief fund was introduced recently. Also, there were some issues related to compassionate appointments. Those have also been raised as a campaign topic,” said Muthukoya, another islander.
In addition to the Congress and NCP, there are candidates from NDA allies BJP and JD(U), in addition to the CPM and CPI in the fray. BJP’s Abdul Khader, Dr Mohammed Sadiq of JD(U), Shereef Khan of CPM and Ali Akbar K of CPI are the other prominent candidates. The constituency has only 54,266 voters from 10 islands - Minicoy, Kavaratti, Agatti, Kiltan, Amini, Kadmath, Chetlat, Bitra, Androth and Kalpeni. “The lapses on the part of the Union Government are being discussed in detail. The NCP had promised it would ensure a price of Rs 625 for dried tuna exported to Sri Lanka. But it was not implemented due to some issues. These matters are being raised as the failures of the sitting MP,” said a voter.
With just 54,266 voters, anyone who polls around 25,000 votes can win the polls. That’s what the Congress is looking at. The votes polled by the JD(U) candidate could play a crucial role in deciding the winner.