As party workers teemed outside the district headquarters complex here in the scorching sun, Congress president Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha elections to be held on April 23.
At the chamber of Wayanad District Collector A R Ajayakumar, the returning officer, Rahul was flanked by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress district presidents I C Balakrishnan (Wayanad) and V V Prakash (Malappuram) and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader Panakkad Syed Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal.
Rahul and Priyanka, who took a chopper from Kozhikode to Kalpetta, were taken to the district headquarters to submit the nomination, accompanied by Congress leaders and slogan-shouting workers. After filing the papers, they took part in a road show in an open truck along with senior leaders of the Congress and United Democratic Front (UDF).
Before leaving Kalpetta, Rahul remarked on the Left criticism about his decision to contest from a constituency in Kerala. “I know that that the CPM and Congress have been locked in a fight in Kerala, and this fight will go on. I want to make clear to my brothers and sisters in Kerala, my brothers and sisters in CPM, I understand that CPM has to protest against me. I understand that CPM has to fight me. But I am not going to say a word against the CPM. I am here to send the message of unity and the message that South India is important. I fully understand that CPM has to attack me. So, I absorb all their attacks with happiness. But you will not hear a word against the CPM in my campaigning,” he said.
Rahul also said he was fighting the polls from the south to send a message that India was one. “I have come to Kerala to send a message that India is one. South, north, east, west, centre… all are one… There is an assault taking place across the country by the RSS and BJP. I just want to send a message and I will stand from south India and north India. My aim was to give a message,” he said.
Thousands of UDF workers from across Wayanad constituency, spread over three districts, gathered in Kalpetta since early morning to see Rahul and Priyanka. Many were camping in lodges in Kalpetta and other towns in the district since Wednesday night. Party workers came in cars painted in Congress flag colours and holding flags of the Congress and IUML. Many clambered on to buildings for a better view. As the chopper became audible, staff in offices came out on the streets, and Kalpetta virtually came to a standstill from 9 am to 1 pm. During the road show along the national highway in Kalpetta, thousands trooped to the road, trying to shake hands with the leaders, some clicking photographs. On many occasions, securitymen had to struggle to take the road show ahead.
Congress worker P Kunjumon, 74, said he came from Thiruvambadi in Kozhikode district to see the Gandhis. “This is a rare opportunity. I am a farmer, but had no qualms about quitting work for a day to meet Rahul. His candidature has energised party workers,’’ he said.
Click here for more election news
M Haneefa, 49, a worker of IUML from Vandoor, said, “IUML workers are excited about Rahul’s candidature. It is our workers who add colour and energy to the campaign.”
Towards the end of the road show, when some mediapersons fell down from a truck, Rahul and Priyanka extended helping hands. Rahul helped shift an injured journalist to an ambulance, while Priyanka picked up the shoe of the injured person and took it to the ambulance.