KOCHI: The sun begins its downward descent painting the village scarlet red. After a day-long work under the scorching sun, agricultural workers trudge their way to the local toddy shop to relax. Inside the brick-and-mortar toddy shop at Karippalangal, a rustic hamlet near Kanjar, the putrid smell of sweat and the gentle whiff of toddy circulates in the air giving that quintessential feeling. The toddy bottles empty fast and the waiter serves kappa (tapioca) with spicy fish curry.
The fermented brew inspires a spirited discussion and naturally, the subject turns out to be the prospects of each candidate. “Gadgil report is no longer an issue as the situation has changed. Indiscriminate construction on the slopes of the hills led to landslides and flood. The river bed was encroached and turned into an agricultural field. The Church has also decided not to support any candidate. These factors give the Congress an edge,” said Thankachan, a worker. Disagreeing with his argument, others said the NDA candidate will get more votes, which makes the result unpredictable.
It’s poll time and the candidates have hit the campaign trail touring the length and breadth of the constituency to woo voters. But the usual euphoria attached to electioneering is missing in Idukki constituency. Blame it on the devastation unleashed by the floods, the deepening crisis in the agriculture sector or the severe heat conditions prevailing in the state, the crowds are lean and the enthusiasm missing.
But the polls have triggered a debate on the policies of the governments, the Centre and the state. Unlike 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it seems the voters have forgotten the issues of encroachment and environment protection this time. But the devastation caused by the floods has led to stress being laid on need for sustained development. The flood and landslides had claimed 57 lives in Idukki district and many victims are yet to get compensation.
Farming community holds the sway in Idukki and the deepening agrarian crisis will have an impact on the election results. Many farmers have stopped cultivating coffee and spices due to plummeting prices. As many as nine debt-ridden farmers committed suicide and thousands face auction of property by banks.
Reji Njallani, who introduced the high yield Njallani cardamom, is contesting as an independent.Discontent is brewing among the Tamil-speaking farm labour community in the plantation sector. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader M Selvaraj is contesting the polls on behalf of Tamil labourers. “There are around 4 lakh Tamil voters here and our votes arecrucial. The farm hands’ plight is miserable. There is no basic facility in estate layams. We demand amendment of Plantation Labour Act to ensure benefits to labourers,” he said.
‘MISSING IN ACTION’
The usual euphoria attached to electioneering is missing in Idukki constituency. Blame it on the devastation unleashed by floods, deepening farm crisis or the severe heat conditions prevailing in the state, the crowds are lean and the enthusiasm missing.