Eye on India: Congress seeks southern comfort

Indian political leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with her husband Robert Vadra (on her right) during Mr Rahul Gandhi's nomination for the general elections in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, last month. Mr Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Cong
Mr Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition Congress party, and his sister, Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress general secretary in charge of east Uttar Pradesh, waving to their supporters after Mr Gandhi filed his nomination papers for the general election in Wayanad in the southern state of Kerala last month. PHOTO: REUTERS
Indian political leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with her husband Robert Vadra (on her right) during Mr Rahul Gandhi's nomination for the general elections in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, last month. Mr Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Cong
Indian political leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with her husband Robert Vadra (on her right) during Mr Rahul Gandhi’s nomination for the general elections in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, last month. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

For the past two weeks, The Straits Times associate editor Ravi Velloor has been travelling in the Indian heartland, entering the homes of the poorest in the countryside as well as people in urban areas, sometimes braving 43 deg C heat in the plains. This is the second of his three reports on India's seven-stage elections, the results of which will be announced on May 23.

SULTAN BATTERY, WAYANAD (Kerala) AND AMETHI (Uttar Pradesh) • The crowd of mostly peasant farmers and cash-crop cultivators of the hill district of Wayanad in southern Kerala state wait patiently in the sweltering heat as local political figures address them, all the while promising that Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will arrive within minutes.

Finally, after a wait of more than 21/2 hours, a red speck shaped like a fly appears in the sky and grows larger. Descending, the Dauphin helicopter circles the open field once and sinks to the ground, careful to keep a safe distance from the electricity cables at the edge of the maidan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2019, with the headline 'Congress seeks southern comfort '. Print Edition | Subscribe