The constituency is known for its huge population of Latin Catholics

In the islands off Kochi, the electioneering looks an intense debate on food security versus round-the-clock availability of drinking water. While Congress candidate K.V. Thomas, four-time MP and Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, seeks the mandate for another round terming himself the architect of the National Food Security Bill 2013, Left Democratic Front candidate Christy Fernandez says that drinking water scarcity is the key campaign issue in the constituency and food security seldom matters here.

Ensuring a tight fight in this traditional citadel of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Mr. Fernandez is concentrating his campaign mainly on the dozen or so islands located in the Kochi backwaters, where empty pots awaiting the arrival of water tankers greet candidates.

Shifts stand

Sensing trouble, Prof. Thomas too has started shifting from his favourite themes of food security and poverty eradication to finding a lasting solution to the drinking water problem.

A constituency known for its huge population of voters who are members of the Latin Catholic community, Ernakulam has another major threat in the form of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.

With a majority of the voters living either on islands or in coastal areas, they have very serious apprehensions about the CRZ norms brought about by the United Progressive Alliance government. With the LDF trying to focus voter attention on this issue, the UDF is now out reassuring the voters.

S. Sarma, MLA, and P. Rajeev, MP, Mr. Fernandez’s campaign managers, could be heard asserting at a campaign meeting at Njarackal that both water and CRZ would decide who would win this time. In the adjacent, Kadamakkudy, the LDF lined up women carrying empty pots to listen to Mr. Fernandez, who promised he would address the matter.

As far as Prof. Thomas is concerned, he claims a long list of achievements other than food security and they include the role he has played to make the Kochi Metro Rail project, the International Container Transhipment Terminal at Vallarpadam, the LNG terminal, expansion of the Kochi refinery and revamp of the Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) possible.

More powers

In South Kalamassery, senior Congress leader A.C. Jose was seen quoting Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony that Prof. Thomas would get more powers if the Congress returned to power, including a Cabinet rank, because of his excellent performance as a Minister of State. Like Mr. Jose, UDF campaigners introduce Prof. Thomas as a politician who understood the pulse of Kochi, which has a large number urban voters with their own unique development vision.

Aggrieved workers

Workers of various public sector enterprises in the constituency such as FACT and the Cochin Shipyard are an aggrieved lot as their industrial units are affected by the policies of the Central government and the LDF is attempting to capitalise on their discontent.

Development-affected

A.N. Radhakrishnan, Bharatiya Janata Party State secretary, is also putting up a strong fight in the constituency by highlighting the way land sharks and power brokers had thrived during the past five years in Kochi and surrounding areas to take away the benefits of various development projects. He and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Anita Pratap have reached out to most of the people, who lost life and livelihood when big projects came up in their surroundings. Interestingly, both the LDF and the UDF candidates are keeping a low profile in areas like Moolampilly where evictees of industrialisation live.

Ms. Pratap believes the regional media has failed to provide enough space to her party’s campaign. But she has made her presence felt in the constituency by replacing the traditional garlands with brooms.

“Though Ernakulam is being projected as a land of urban and corporate conglomerates, its key issues are very basic such as drinking water and disposal of solid waste.

Poor people have already been pushed to the margins and they require nothing but drinking water. The election will reflect the public mood,” says Vivek G. Menon, who works with a construction company at Kaitharam in Paravoor.

“The two major fronts have gone behind candidates with Latin Catholic background. But they never pondered about the burning issues we face,” said N. Sukumaran of Koonammavu.

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