Express News Service
KOZHIKODE: Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, on Tuesday conducted a day-long tour and reviewed developmental issues in Rahul Gandhi’s constituency, Wayanad, triggering political speculation behind the visit and BJP’s future plan for the hill district. In political circles, Smriti’s arrival is seen as a move against Rahul Gandhi who is facing harsh criticism for his continued absence from the constituency.
Wayanad is among 118 most underdeveloped districts in the country which was selected for Aspirational District Scheme (ADS). Smriti Irani arrived in the district to review the status of ADS in the district. ADS is an ambitious scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi aiming at comprehensive development of most underdeveloped districts in the country. Wayanad is the only district from Kerala selected for the scheme. As per Delta ranking of NITI Aayog for February, the district went below 101th rank in overall performance under the scheme. Smriti had defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, which he won for three consecutive terms, in last Lok Sabha polls taking advantage of ‘poor development.’ Probably, Smriti is planning to target Rahul citing the development issues of Wayanad which has the largest tribal population in the state.
On her arrival, the minister had tweeted in Malayalam that she was going to Wayanad to discuss development issues. She had announced that she was planning to attend various functions to interact with people.
On Tuesday, Smriti visited various tribal colonies and interacted with people. Further, she held a meeting to review the status of Aspirational District Scheme in Wayanad. District collector A Geetha and other officers attended the meeting. At the review meeting, the minister instructed officers to initiate immediate steps to improve the district’s ranking in terms of Aspirational District Programme. All departments should take efforts to improve the performance, she said.
Meanwhile the Union minister’s visit has invited a sharp reaction from Congress. DCC president N D Appachan said that Congress has nothing to fear from the visit of Smriti Irani. “Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi has much influence among the people of Wayanad and BJP can do nothing to damage his reputation among voters.”
“Rahul Gandhi is giving utmost importance to development of Wayanad,” he added. “BJP is highlighting his absence from the constituency. It is not easy to ensure his presence here all the time as he is a national leader,” he added.
BJP district president KP Madhu said that Wayanad had provided shelter to Rahul Gandhi when he lost LS polls in Amethi in 2019. “But, he (Rahul) does not have time to spend for the development of Wayanad. People of the district have already realised the fact that Congress victory has resulted in a huge loss to the district”, he said.