National

Tiniest constituency has large development needs

| | Updated on: Apr 02, 2014
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Lakshadweep needs its candidates to pay attention

Silvery beaches, coral reefs, lagoons, atolls. Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving. The archipelago of Lakshadweep is a tourist’s dream of relaxed vacationing come true.

Rajiv Gandhi link

But the laid-back, emerald islands in the Arabian Sea with a population of 64,000 are now stirred up. With just 10 days left for the April 10 election, the tiniest Lok Sabha electorate (47,972 voters on 10 islands) in the country is in a state of anticipation. Seven candidates from the 36-island Union Territory are aiming for the lone ticket to Delhi. Will the sitting MP, Hamdulla Sayeed, represent the islands in Delhi again, like his father PM Sayeed had done for ten terms from 1967?

The archipelago shot to the consciousness of mainstream India with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1985. Gandhi fell in love with the islands. In a way, India rediscovered Lakshadweep after his visit. Some development activity followed and tourism flourished. The islanders – whose main sources of livelihood are coconut farming, fishing and manual labour on ships – started raising their voice for more development and more jobs.

For most of their daily needs, Lakshadweep residents depend on shipments from Kochi, Kozhikode and Mangalore, which are 220-440 km across the sea. Hence, transportation between the mainland and the ten inhabited islands as well as between the islands is the biggest problem. Come election time, the islanders make a point to highlight this issue. Plus, better healthcare and higher education facilities, an emergency helicopter, and more welfare schemes.

Hamdulla Sayeed of the Congress, who won with a 2198-vote majority in 2009, is seeking re-election on the development plank. In 2004, though, PM Sayeed’s long run was halted by Janata Dal’s P Pookunji Koya. After PM Sayeed’s death, his son Hamdulla won in 2009.

This time, Hamdulla’s main rival is the Nationalist Congress Party’s Mohammed Fizal. Both the CPI and the CPI (M) are in the fray, though these two parties are LDF alliance partners in Kerala; and, NCP is part of the LDF, too. The BJP, Aam Admi Party and Samajwadi Party have also fielded candidates.

But Hamdulla, raised and educated in Delhi, is still confident of a smooth win.

Published on April 02, 2014

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