Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Lakshadweep: Resentment against administrator to reflect in vote

For the people of Lakshadweep, this Lok Sabha election is the most crucial in their history. They are desperate to stop the slew of policies imposed by New Delhi-appointed administrator Praful Khoda Patel.

Lakshadweep will be voting along with 101 constituencies on Friday, the first phase of the general election. Of the 64,000 people living on 10 of 36 islands, there are 57,784 eligible voters. Lakshadweep is a reserved seat for Scheduled Tribes.

The strongman against Patel will secure the most votes in the archipelago, veterans from the archipelago predict. Even Modi’s visit last year and his endorsement of tourism are not popular among people who are concerned about the anti-people policies of Modi’s Patel.

Resentment over unemployment, lack of medical facilities and shortage of means of transport will also influence election results.

The incumbent Member of Parliament Mohammed Faizal Padippura of NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) and Congress’ Muhammed Hamdulla Sayeed are the main contenders for the seat in Lok Sabha.

BJP backs Yusuf TP of NCP (Ajit Pawar) in the Muslim majority Union Terrorty. It’s said that confusion over the election symbol of NCP might give him some votes.

Faizal P P and Sayeed campaign on their anti-administrator position. The actions of Patel, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader and close aide of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are seen as an existential threat by islanders. Allies of the opposition coalition, both INC and NCP (SP) candidates accuse each other of having a secret relationship with the saffron party.

While Congress remains the biggest party in the archipelago, Faizal P P secures considerable votes from the grand old party’s supporters.

In the 2019 elections, Padippura won 22,851 votes to 22,028 won by Hamdulla Sayeed.

Congress’s pick Hamdulla Sayeed is the son of PM Sayeed, an eight-time MP from Lakshadweep from 1967 to 2004. In 2004, PM Saeed was defeated by P. Pookunhi Koya of the Samata party. But Hamdulla Sayeed won from the constituency in 2009, filling the spot for his late father.

But Hamdulla Sayeed was beaten by Faizal PP in 2014 and 2019. It could repeat if Hamdulla Sayeed can’t channel his party’s influence into votes.

Hamdulla Sayeed’s disadvantage is his missed opportunity to show up during the historic protest against the administrator in 2021 when Lakshadweep was global news. Faizal took advantage of the first political storm. He led the protests and became a vocal critic of Patel’s administration.

“Existential threat”

Patel terminated hundreds of temporary government staffers, banned animal slaughter, closed schools, disqualified candidates with two children from contesting elections, lifted a decades-long liquor ban, and imposed a draconian detention law months after he took charge. 

But the biggest issue for the islanders is the threat of mass eviction from their ancestral lands, known as Pandaram Land.

Pandaram Land covers approximately sixty per cent of the land in Kavaratti, Agathi, Kalpeni, Androth, Minicoy, and uninhabited islands nearby like Bangaram and Thinnakara. 

If Patel succeeds in evicting people from Pandaram Land, it will render most of the islanders landless.

Faisal was disqualified as MP after he was convicted in a murder attempt case for 10 years in jail. The conviction was later suspended, paving the way to reinstate his Lok Sabha seat. Later, during the split of NCP, Faisal chose to stay with Sharad Pawar, earning him a role in the opposition alliance.

Left parties have extended their support to Faisal.

But it will not be easy for Faisal who faces criticism for his business interest meddling with the push for opening the island for tourism. In the last hours before the vote, Faisal responded to Congress’s anti-incumbency claims with a list of his work for the island.

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