Water, fuel vie with murder as poll issues at Neyyattinkara

Although Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T.P. Chandrasekharan's murder and its aftermath have found a resonance among the voters of Neyyattinkara, issues closer home such as shortage of water and kerosene are also gaining in importance as talking points as the campaign for the June-2 by-election gathers momentum.

As could be expected, the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) has been using to good effect the brutal murder of the RMP leader and the arrest of several CPI(M) functionaries and cadres in connection with it over the past few days.

UDF candidate R. Selvaraj himself has been using it to justify his decision to seek refuge in the Congress after quitting the CPI(M). With the Congress and the UDF campaigners going full throttle over the issue, the CPI(M) and its allies have no other option but defend itself, only to find to their chagrin that they are adding fuel to fire.

The petroleum companies' decision to go in for a steep increase in petrol prices could not have come at a better time for the CPI(M) and the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF). It has virtually galvanised the LDF campaign machinery in the constituency and there are already signs that the campaign over the topic has begun to gel well with the themes of water and kerosene shortage which are burning issues in many parts of the constituency.

Fine-tuning strategy

Leaders of the LDF constituents met in the constituency on Friday to take stock of the situation and fine-tune their campaign strategy. Talking to reporters after the meeting, LDF convener Vaikom Viswan said the UDF was trying to win votes over the Chandrasekharan murder because they had nothing else to campaign on.

The Congress and UDF campaigners, however, say that the CPI(M) and the LDF were still as much on the defensive as they were before the petrol price increase came.

They say the State government has done what it could by foregoing the additional tax revenue from the price hike and exerting pressure on the Centre to roll back the price increase, which has been used well not just by the LDF, but also by the BJP whose nominee O. Rajagopal took a bullock-cart ride on Thursday to prove his point.

As the campaign moves to a crescendo, all attention is focused on the question whether Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who is at loggerheads with the CPI(M) State leadership, would return to the LDF campaign, as billed, on May 30. Mr. Achuthanandan told reporters here on Friday, though somewhat evasively, that he would.