The curve at the Ayyan’s firecracker factory bursts into life on Monday morning as the convoy with M.K. Raghavan swings onto the highway to Kannur, the UDF candidate’s native district.

Mr. Raghavan, atop the campaign vehicle decked up in UDF colours, is headed for Puthiyangadi, an IUML stronghold in the Kozhikode North Assembly constituency. He waves at one and all, including a snaking queue outside a beverage outlet.

It is a busy day ahead for the candidate. Defence Minister A.K. Antony is expected to arrive by evening. At Puthiyangadi Junction, Mr. Raghavan clambers onto a two-wheeler. He is whisked away into a narrow lane.

P.V. Gangadharan, industrialist, who fought the 2011 Assembly stakes for the UDF, informs the waiting media persons that the candidate is visiting a funeral. N.P. Hamsa, a fisherman, grumbles in an undertone “they don’t spare dead people too.” Within a few minutes, the candidate is back. He tells a motley gathering that he is their ‘brother.’ They have to vote him back to complete ‘Kozhikode’s development.’

Development claims

Mr. Raghavan’s campaign formula has been a combination of quick visits to funerals, weddings, and public functions and repeated claims of having ushered in development in the constituency. His rivals vigorously debate the veracity of his development claims, but concede that Mr. Raghavan has the image of an ‘accessible man.’

At Chembra in the interiors of the Koduvally Assembly constituency, 11-year-old Chandran waits for A. Vijayaraghavan, the LDF candidate. Dressed in pink shirt and wearing a red paper cap with sickle and hammer painted on it, Chandran holds a garland of red hibiscus flowers.

Mr. Vijayaraghavan faces a test of fire in Koduvally. An IUML bastion, it was a game-changer in the closely-fought 2009 Lok Sabha polls. A 13 per cent vote margin for Mr. Raghavan had catalysed victory for the UDF.

Undercurrents

But Soman Pallithottam, a social activist in the panchayat, says voter sensibilities change. There is a strong undercurrent within the IUML ranks against Mr. Raghavan.

“What has Raghavan done here in the past five years? Koduvally is affected by the GAIL gas pipeline and families will be evicted. Koduvally, now part of the Thamarassery taluk, is apprehensive of the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats. Has Raghavan ever addressed these issues during his tenure?” he asked.

At the gathering inside ‘Vanitha Mess,’ amidst the aroma of fish fry, O.T. Rashid, a young LDF sympathiser, extols Mr. Vijayaraghavan as a man from an impoverished family who made it through sheer grit and hard work. He waxes eloquent about Mr. Vijayaraghavan’s academic stint in Islamic History, his degree in Law from the Kozhikode Government Law College, his two terms as Member of Parliament and his good work for the minority community in Malappuram.

“Parliament is a place where MPs can work for or against the people. Where one can stop corruption, poverty and price rise. In the past five years, the 16 MLAs and eight ministers from Kerala have remained silent spectators. This has to end,” Mr. Vijayaraghavan said in his calm baritone later on.

Chandran finally gets his moment under the spotlight when the candidate spots him on his way to the waiting vehicle.

“Are you in school? Study well,” Mr. Vijayaraghavan tells the boy and tousles his hair.

AAP presence

Driving back into the city, at a small shopping centre in Kunnamangalam panchayat, a loudspeaker belts out the Aam Aadmi Party score from a jeep with a broom tied on its bonnet. The curious get a dose of Delhi politics, heroics of Arvind Kejriwal and a low down on UPA-II’s ‘corporate corruption’ peppered with references to Niira Radia. By fielding its spokesperson K.P. Ratheesh, a former IT professional, the party hopes to rope in young voters. But poll observers say that the 90,000-odd new voters are polarised among the UDF, LDF, and BJP.

Modi ‘wave’

In the city’s outskirts, posters of C.K. Padmanabhan and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi beam at passers-by from posters. Party’s district general convener P. Reghunath stresses that the Modi ‘wave’ is real and apparent. He says the people ‘know the Lotus is the strong alternative to both the UDF and LDF in Kerala’.

Near Kanakalaya Bank bus stop, ‘CKP’, as he is popularly known among the cadres, alights from his vehicle. He crosses the road and greets a couple of Muslim women, asking them to vote for him.

The Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) may be stirred by the CBI’s unwillingness to take up the T.P. Chandrasekharan case, but is not shaken. The party is banking on its candidate N.P. Prathap Kumar’s legacy as a former Kozhikode Corporation councillor to make its presence felt in the constituency.

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