Set high on Western Ghat, Wayanad is tourist hub
Wayanad, where Congress President Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers on Thursday for the Lok Sabha polls, is a popular tourist hub and also one of the most backward regions in Kerala.
Located high on the Western Ghat, more than 850 sq km of the district is forested. Wayanad is also home to many indigenous tribal communities.
Bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, almost 50 per cent of Wayanad district's population is Hindu, with Muslims and Christians accounting for 28 and 21 per cent respectively.
But despite a 89 per cent literacy rate, Wayanad is the least literate district in Kerala. It is considered backward compared to other parts of the state vis-a-vis infrastructure as well as educational and healthcare facilities.
Also located here are the Edakkal caves with 6,000 year-old-rock engravings from the Neolithic age.
The backwardness has not impacted the gender ratio. Wayanad boasts of 1,035 females to 1,000 males.
Now, however, Wayanad has become better known as the constituency from where Rahul Gandhi hopes to enter the Lok Sabha.
Carved out of Kozhikode and Kannur districts, Wayanad became the 12th district of Kerala in November 1980.
According to the Election Commission, its total electorate is 13,25,788, comprising 655,786 men and 670,002 women.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Congress-led UDF won the Sultan Bathery, Wandoor and Eranadu seats while the CPI-M-led LDF won Manathavady, Kalpetta, Nilambur and Thiruvampady.
Wayanad became a Lok Sabha constituency in 2009, and senior Congress leader M.I. Shanawaz won with a margin of 153,439 votes, the highest victory margin in Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha seats.
His victory margin dropped to 20,870 in 2019. Shanawaz died last year, due to a long standing ailment. Since then the seat was lying vacant.
Taking on Gandhi is CPI's P.P. Suneer, a local. The BJP-led NDA has fielded Tushar Vellapally, Chairman of its ally Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS).