The central Travancore constituency of Pathanamthitta spread across Pathanamthitta and Kottayam is set to witness a fierce battle.

Sitting Congress MP Anto Antony, who won by 1,11,206 votes over K. Ananthagopan of the CPI(M) in the 2009 polls, is crossing swords with LDF candidate Peelipose Thomas, former DCC president, who knows the pulse of the constituency as well as the Congress better than any party leader.

The youth icon of the Bharatiya Janata Party State unit, M.T. Ramesh, too is in the fray.

The LDF has got a lot more to cheer about fielding Mr. Thomas, who had been the key strategist of the Congress in the previous elections.

It is also a fact that the total margin of votes polled by the UDF over the LDF in the Assembly segments of Adoor, Thiruvalla, Ranni, Aranmula, and Konni, in Pathanamthitta district, and Poonjar and Kanjirappally, in Kottayam district, had dropped to 24,207 votes in the Assembly elections in 2011.

Though there are many issues likely to be raised by political parties, the controversial Aranmula airport issue and the pro-airport stance taken by the MP is sure to take centre stage in the poll campaign.

Eco issues

Infrastructure development, environmental issues arising out of paddy land conversion, razing of hills, sand and granite quarrying, groundwater depletion and drying up of natural water sources leading to water scarcity even in river basins, rubber price slump, recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan committee, that had marked 14 populated villages in the hill tracts as ecologically sensitive, are issues that will come up for debate. The UDF is trying to sideline the all-party agitation against the airport project at Aranmula as a local issue. The ruling front will find it hard to sideline the stir led by social activist Sugathakumari, who hails from the village. The absence of a passport seva kendra in Pathanamthitta and development issues concerning the Thiruvalla railway station are also poll issues.

Fielding Mr. Antony a second time in Pathanamthitta was not a smooth affair, with a section of party supporters expressing dissent. The DCC had even recommended president P.Mohanraj as the party candidate in the constituency.

The Kerala Congress(M) is not happy with the way the Congress handled the crisis arising out of the Kasturirangan report.

Unrest

The CPI(M) nominating a former Congress leader as an LDF Independent too had created unrest among a section of party cadre.

The approach of various churches towards the candidates too matters. Mr.Thomas belongs to the Mar Thoma Church, which has considerable influence in the Assembly segments of Thiruvalla, Aranmula, Ranni, Konni, and Adoor.

The UDF campaign stresses the need for a stable government at the Centre, which only the Congress can provide.The LDF campaign stresses the need for an efficient statesman such as Mr. Thomas to represent the constituency in Parliament.

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