The Idukki Lok Sabha constituency is set for a close contest this time as the political undercurrents may play a major role in deciding the fate of a candidate, especially in the high range area which witnessed a spate of agitations over the Western Ghats reports.
The main candidates are Dean Kuriakose who contests on the Congress symbol and Joice George fielded by the High Range Protection Council and the Left Democratic Front.
Though the constituency consisting seven Assembly segments is topographically divided between the low range and the high range, the change in the community shift of political affiliation is keenly watched as to how it will reflect in the elections.
Over the Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports, both the ranges have conflicting interest and the influence of the Church over the voter's choice is a factor to be considered in the constituency which is portrayed as a stronghold of the UDF. The Lok Sabha constituency consisting of the Assembly constituencies of Kothamangalam and Muvattupuzha of Eranakulam district and the five constituencies — Thodupuzha, Devikulam, Idukki, Udambanchola and Peerumade of Idukki district.
In the high range belt, Tamil voters have a considerable say and it is their affiliation with the political parties of Tamil Nadu that decides their voting preference here. However, in the estate areas, the influence of the trade unions is also a major factor to reckon with.
In the Assembly constituencies of Peerumade, Udumbanchola and Devikulam, the LDF is ruling, while in Idukki, Thodupuzha, Kothamangalam and Muvattupuzha, the UDF is in power. The shift in the alliance by the Joseph faction with the UDF after joining with Kerala Congress (M) made some inroads in their pockets during the last Assembly elections.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the thumbing majority gained by P.T. Thomas of Congress in the UDF was 74,796 votes against Francis George, a leader of the Kerala Congress (Joseph) which was then in the LDF fold. He was the sitting MP, when P.T. Thomas was fielded against him. Except for the nominal Lok Sabha terms, the constituency was with the UDF.
Compared to the last elections, this time it is fought with a changed community affiliation as the Idukki Bishop has openly given call to vote against the Congress. However, how it will be filtered at the grassroots is only known when the results are out as it will be difficult to change the traditional voting pattern. It was evident that at the meeting organised by the High Range Protection council to campaign for Mr. Joice George, many of its leaders had been on absence due to their political affiliation on the electoral front. It will be the political undercurrents that may set in motion influencing the voters as the outcome is more decided by the independent votes and the new voters of around 76,000.
In the last elections, there were 10,61,666 voters including 5,37,448 male and 5,24,218 female. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the total voters as per the available data till 22 January 2014 was 11,37,664 voters. This included 5,68,869 male and 5,68,795 female voters.
Though the final list is yet to be released, there may only be a difference around 5,000 votes, say election officials. In the initial campaign, the voting is mainly being focused on the Kasturirangan plank by both the fronts. While the UDF claims that it was the timely intervention of the State government that resulted in the release of draft notification and that there is no concern for the people over the issue, the LDF and the council claim that it was the policy of both the Central and State governments that resulted in the Kasturirangan reports, “that would adversely hit the farmers”.
In the initial campaigns, it was noted by the absence of issues that affect the general public like price rise or economic sluggishness. How campaigns launched on the ‘apprehension of farmers’ will be weighed by the voters is not palpable.
The traditional votes in both the ranges may not be much influenced, but there is also a chance for consolidation of votes in favour or against a candidate in the topographically divided constituency. The farmers issue is being highlighted on an artificially created plane than the original issues confronting the people. How various stakeholders will play in the poll plank and how it will be filtered at the grassroots will be known when the voters express their will or even negatively vote in the polls.