Probably Elsie amma turned in her grave at what happened to Rahul Gandhi, although he has no clue that she is no more. Way back in 2019, when his name was announced as candidate for Wayanad ticket by the Congress, she was thrust under the limelight for a while – her wish to see Rahul Gandhi was fulfilled by Congress’s PR team under the media glare then.
This reporter attempted to track down Elsie amma to see what she feels about the disqualification only to learn that she passed away six months ago.
Meanwhile, a very lively 99-year old Matthew was spotted cackling, trying to contain it by covering his mouth with his palm. He gave up after a while and asked: "Will you find enough people to carry these?"
He was referring to the stacked kerosene-soaked cloth bound around bamboo sticks, to be used as torches, at the district Congress committee office at Kalpetta in Wayanad on Sunday evening. On the third day after Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from the Wayanad seat, Youth Congress was organising a night march.
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Mattthew, who stays nearby, had dropped by to watch. Yes, he is a Congress sympathiser who had his share of protests – he narrated with glee how he threw stones at a police station long, long ago during one. But he was not convinced that people in Wayanad are invested so much that they would come on a day so sacrosanct that most locals refuse to work even if you pay them twice the wage. To make things worse, on the other end of the district, at Mananthavady, was Wayanad’s most famous all-night festival being organised by Valliyoorkkavu temple, the annual 14-day arattu festival. There's also the Ramadan fasting.
Matthew has a point: If you stop people on the street in any part of Wayanad, and ask what you think of the disqualification, more often than not, people express outrage. But then they get on with their lives, implicitly understanding that the battle is being fought elsewhere.
This sentiment was also expressed by Sreeja, a municipal Councillor for Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and daughter-in-law of Elsie amma. Sreeja expressed confidence that Rahul Gandhi’s conviction will be dismissed in higher courts and that he will win the next election from Wayanad, with an even bigger margin. "Most women in my colony and my ward really like Rahul Gandhi," she added. Then she moved on to talk about her more pressing worry -- the impending water shortage, an annual summer occurrence in her colony.
Back at the Congress office too, life went on. Before heading to the protest, the members were treated to an iftaar. In fact, district panchayat president Samshad Marakkar had earlier cited the ongoing Ramadan fasting as one of the reasons why things were low-key in Wayanad.
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Right after his release on Saturday, he was arrested for blocking the national highway, Kalpetta MLA T Siddique was seen at the local masjid offering Ramadan namaz. When confronted with ‘low-key efforts’ he went on to list the events being organised by Wayanad Congress to "uphold democracy and fight against the tyranny of the Modi government." But the evening events planned for rural areas on Saturday as well Youth Congress’ national president B V Srinivas’s visit to Kalpetta for the night march on Sunday were cancelled.
Although on Sunday night, Congress proved Matthew wrong: all those sticks came handy as nearly 400 Congress workers marched through Kalpetta town waving them in the air, a lot later than announced owing to Ramadan.