That one of the two Jacobs will celebrate when the final vote position of the Piravom bypoll flashes on that electronic screen at the counting centre in the morning of March 21 is a foregone conclusion.

How big, or rather, how slender, the margin of victory would be for M.J. Jacob of the Left Democratic Front or Anoop Jacob from the United Democratic Front remains the question. For, the constituency had registered a steep decline in margin in the two elections since 2001 when the late T.M. Jacob romped home with 12,720 votes.

Blame it on the turmoil inside the UDF, which saw T.M. Jacob turning up as the candidate of the now defunct DIC(K) formed by the late Congress stalwart K. Karunakaran, the incumbent lost the seat to his LDF rival M.J. Jacob by 5,150 votes from the height of a five-digit margin in 2006. The favour was returned in the next election held last year, when M.J. Jacob went down by a wafer-thin margin of 157 votes.

This bypoll, unlike the previous elections when the fight for Piravom was just another among the 140 such contests across the State, enabled both fronts to train their complete focus on the constituency. This has reflected in the intensity of campaigning.

Fronts count it as a reason why it would not be surprising if the voter turnout bests the 79.08 per cent registered last year.

Mr. M.J. Jacob is convinced that it will be the case. “It's a revised voters' list devoid of those who are either dead or no longer reside in the constituency. Naturally, the turnout should be higher,” he told The Hindu on Thursday. The electorate in the constituency has gone up from 1.75 lakh to 1.83 lakh.

Asked about the panchayats, Mr. M.J. Jacob said that he expects to lead in all 14 panchayats.

“Even at the time of the last election, the LDF was not in power in any of the 14 panchayats. While declining to predict on his victory margin, he was confident of wresting back the seat with a “good margin”.

Mr. Anoop Jacob was equally confident of his victory margin. “In the last election, my father couldn't campaign properly owing to his poor health. Neither could we do a proper homework. Those issues are no longer there,” he told The Hindu.

Like his rival, he expects the turnout to be higher considering the importance given to the bypoll by the media and its significance for the State government.

Except for Thiruvankulam and Chottanikkara panchayats, he counted all the other 12 panchayats as UDF strongholds. “We will improve our performance even in their (LDF) strongholds,” he said. Both the candidates have predicted their victory. Now, the electorate will vindicate either of them by pressing the right button in less than 24 hours from now.

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