In Kerala’s bipolar electoral scenario dominated by CPI(M)-led LDF and Congress-headed UDF, Nemom has emerged as the lone segment to witness a triangular battle with BJP leader O Rajagopal mounting a high-voltage campaign to fulfill the party’s goal of opening its account in the state Assembly.
Other contestants in the three-horse race in the semi-urban segment that covers part of State capital Thiruvananthapuram are CPI(M) MLA V Sivankutty and Charupara Ravi of Socialist Janata Democratic, a constituent of the UDF.
A former mayor, Mr. Sivankutty was elected to the Assembly in 2006 from Thiruvananthapuram East, which has disappeared in the delimitation exercise.
He has come up through the campus politics and is approaching the voters banking on the strength of the works he had taken up for the city as civic chief and later as MLA.
Mr. Ravi is also a familiar figure in the area but is leaning heavily on the Congress for taking his campaign forward as SJD is not a force to reckon with in the constituency.
Though hailing from Palakkad, Mr. Rajagopal is quite familiar to the people of Thiruvananthapuram as he has been staying in the city for the last few decades.
Known as ‘Rajettan’ (elder brother) among all sections of people, 82-year-old Rajagopal, a former union minister of state, is the most popular and experienced face of the saffron party in Kerala since the Jan Sangh days.
He had contested from Thirvananthapuram in 2004 Lok Sabha polls and finished a close third to the Congress candidate then. Mr. Rajagopal’s acceptability to all sections blurring the bourns of politics has prompted his party to field him here.
The segment’s social and religious profile is also considered conducive for the party as the area has large concentration of middle class and salaried people, on whom the BJP rests its hopes to break its electoral jinx.
The BJP’s showing in the civic polls last year, when it picked up several seats in the area and finished a close second in a few others, has also been factored in by the party strategists to choose Nemom to focus all their attention.
But the LDF and the UDF are quick to dismiss the BJP’s chances holding that Mr. Rajagoapl would also end up in third slot as his party in rest of the 139 seats across the State.
“Once again it will turn out to be publicity stunt by the BJP as we have seen during the past elections,” a district functionary of the CPI(M) told PTI.
According to Mr. Sivankutty, his party has chosen him as he is capable of surmounting any grim challenge on the strength of the development work he had done.
The achievements of the LDF Government in the last five years, he says, is also a positive factor in his favour.
With a total electorate of 1,69,283, Nemom has returned Congress mostly in the past. But the delimitation has changed its composition making it slightly slippery terrain for it.
Stemming the LDF wave, Congress nominee N Sakthan won the seat in 2006. A former minister, Mr. Sakthan has shifted this time to neighbouring Kattakkada, whose social and religious composition is believed to be favourable for the UDF.
He is battling it out there with LDF’s Jaya Dali, who resigned from the Congress just a couple of weeks ago.
Both the LDF and the BJP claim that Congress’s decision to skip the Nemom betrayed the party’s lack of confidence.
UDF candidate Mr. Ravi, however, rejects this argument as a “mischievous and misleading propaganda” saying that SJD was given the seat by the Congress as the party wanted to contest at least in one segment down south.
SJD, led by former Union Minister M P Veerendrakumar, was floated after the split in Janata Dal -S during the last Lok Sabha polls.
“We have firm roots in the area dating back to the days of the Socialist movement. The Socialist parivar is now entirely with us. The Congress workers are also campaigning for me as they know that every single seat is crucial for the UDF to wrest power from the LDF,” Mr. Ravi said.
The BJP has started electioneering in the segment well before the LDF and UDF declared their candidates.
“We are absolutely sure of victory. We have already covered every nook and corner of the segment several rounds.
The response from all sections, including minority communities, has been positive as people here know the good work done by Rajettan as minister of state for Railways in the Vajpayee Government,” BJP District President Karamana Jayan told PTI.
Whatever be the outcome, Nemom is a keenly watched constituency in Kerala with every one asking will the voters here help the ‘lotus’ bloom on Kerala soil.