Pathanamthitta is all poised for a neck-and-neck electoral race the outcome of which, going by the relative strengths and weaknesses of the main contestants, looks unpredictable.
All the three key contestants in the fray are seasoned politicians – incumbent Congress MP Anto Antony of the United Democratic Front (UDF), former AICC member Peelipose Thomas, who has been fielded by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) as an independent, and M.T. Ramesh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Although the main contest is between the UDF and the LDF, the BJP is also determined to make a mark in this Central Travancore constituency.
Both Mr. Antony and Mr. Thomas have strong political moorings in the constituency that came into existence in 2009 following constituency delimitation.
Although a little confused about its nominee initially, the BJP picked Mr. Ramesh with the clear intention to ensure that there is no split in its vote share.
Mr. Antony had swept the Lok Sabha polls in 2009 defeating his LDF rival K. Ananthagopan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) by a massive margin of 1,11,206 votes.
By fielding a former Congress leader, the CPI(M) has created some rumblings in the Congress and the UDF.
The UDF camp is confident that their candidate would get support from all sections of the electorate given his initiatives for the overall development of the constituency during the past five years.
Mr. Antony’s campaign managers reel out facts and figures to show that he had launched a series of development schemes worth a total of Rs.600 crore in the constituency.Airport project
The Aranmula airport project, which the UDF candidate has been citing as a major development initiative for the entire region, has proved divisive with a large number of people in Aranmula, Mallappuzhasserry and Kidangannur panchayats voicing their strong opposition to the project.
The UDF bid is to play up the issue in various other parts of the constituency, accusing the LDF of sabotaging the constituency’s development.
Mr. Thomas’s Congress roots might help him win some additional votes, but the UDF is confident that its vote base would remain intact given the intensity of the campaign.
In 2009, the BJP campaign had acquired a communal overtone because of the direct involvement of the Sangh Parivar in it. However, this time, the party is campaigning on the development plank.
The Socialist Democratic Party of India, which has some pockets of influence in all the seven Assembly segments of the constituency, has fielded its candidate.