With just a few days left for the D-day, politicians of all hues descend in Kochi
With the key candidates having completed their second round of campaign by travelling in open vehicles across the length and width of the constituency unmindful of the blistering heat, Ernakulam is now witnessing an intense fight, mainly between a seasoned politician who initially hoped for an easy victory and a retired civil servant, who is a novice in electoral politics.
With a few days left for the final phase of canvassing votes, a stiff fight is visible in the constituency while the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too are not sparing any efforts.
Despite facing the allegation that he was a ‘para-dropped’ candidate with no roots in the constituency, LDF-backed independent Christy Fernandez has emerged as a formidable challenge to K.V. Thomas of the Congress, the four-time MP and Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. Mr Christy is focusing mainly on the coastal regions of the constituency addressing the concerns of the voters there, mainly about the adverse impacts of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. He has also evoked sentiments of aggrieved workers of key public sector enterprises in the constituency like HMT, FACT and Cochin Shipyard, who feel the heat of economic liberalisation. Sensing trouble, Mr Thomas has intensified the campaign, saying he would get a more responsible position at the Centre if the UPA returns to power and he can solve the worries of the constituency.
“It has now turned into a David versus Goliath fight. Mr Thomas and his campaigners are taking too much credit on his role in the preparation of the Food Security Bill. But it is one of the constituencies where public distribution system remains at its worst. After all, Ernakulam is not a Congress citadel as widely perceived,” says CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member P.Rajeev, who heads the campaign team of Mr. Christy.
“The mandate is already clear. Mr Thomas will win this time with a huge margin as there is a visible pro-UDF wave in the constituency. On the other hand, the LDF’s independent has no roots here. The only person who knew Mr Christy before the beginning of the campaign here was Mr Thomas in his capacity as a Minister who had to frequently interact with the Secretary of then President Prathibha Patil,” said P.N. Prasanna Kumar, campaign manager of the UDF.
Union Minister A.K. Antony, who was on a campaign tour in the constituency in the past two days, said Mr Thomas had proved to be a good administrator by piloting the Food Security Bill and the Congress would provide him more opportunities. However, his opponents say the constituency needs more attention on drinking water and sanitation than food security.
While the UDF highlights the Kochi Metro rail project, International Container Transshipment Terminal at Vallarpadam, LNG terminal, expansion of BPCL Kochi Refinery and the development of HMT as its achievements, Left campaigners say most of such projects happened because of frequent intervention by Mr Rajeev as a Rajya Sabha member.
BJP candidate A.N. Radhakrishnan is also putting up an intense campaign, covering every nook and cranny of the constituency, and there is wide speculation that his performance would divide the anti-Left votes. Though low profile, journalist-writer Anita Pratap of the AAP is also confident of winning a share of votes that traditionally went in favour of the UDF.
Though Ernakulam has traditionally favoured the UDF, Mr Thomas had only a modest margin of 11,000 votes in the constituency last time. The LDF is also hopeful because the Aluva Assembly constituency with UDF supremacy went to the Chalakkudy Lok Sabha constituency’s fold this time because of delimitation and Paravoor with Left dominance has became part of Ernakulam.
Mr. Thomas feels the “murder politics” of the CPI(M), especially the killing of the RMP leader T.P. Chandrasekharan, would win impartial votes in his favour. He also feels there is no communal or social polarisation against him this time.