When old rivals come face to face in an electoral battle, sparks fly. In the Mavelikara (SC) constituency, old rivals Union Minister of State for Labour Kodikunnil Suresh of the United Democratic Front and Communist Party of India candidate Chengara Surendran are engaged in a stiff contest that has raised memories of their earlier encounters in which Mr. Surendran had defeated his Congress rival twice in 1999 and 2004 and Mr. Suresh emerged victorious in 2009. Not to be left behind, the Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) State president P. Sudheer to secure as many votes as possible.

With hardly eight days left for the polling, all the three major parties have completed two rounds of campaigning in the constituency spread over Kollam, Alappuzha and Kottayam districts. All of them have chosen development as their main poll plank. In Mavelikara, which became a reserved constituency after the delimitation process, the voters include kin of expatriates workers in the Gulf countries, farmers and cashew industry workers.

Mr. Suresh’s campaign managers are trying to reach out to the voters listing the many development projects that he had initiated in the constituency. “The Union Minister had launched many railway development projects in the constituency. Even a small village station like Cheriyanad near Chengannur has several trains stopping there thanks to the efforts of the Union Minister,” claimed Aby Kuriakose, UDF campaign committee convener. The UDF campaign machinery also cites the proposed ESI medical college at Mavelikara, rubber park at Pathanapuram, a unit of the Indo-Tibetan Border Force at Nooranad and upgrade of the Homeo Research Centre at Kurichy near Changanacherry to a centre of excellence under Ayush as some of Mr. Suresh’s other development initiatives.

However, they have a difficult time when the Left Democratic Front campaigners point to the acute drinking water scarcity in large parts of the constituency and the allege that cashew workers and the poor, especially those living in the settlement colonies, were totally neglected by the Union Minister. “The Minister’s claims have left most of the poor people untouched,” says Ajith R. Pillai, LDF campaign committee convener.

Mr. Suresh says he has already initiated a comprehensive drinking water supply scheme estimated at Rs.268 crore for 13 panchayats in Kuttanad. He adds that a Rs.60-crore advanced training institute attached to the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) at Chengannur has been cleared.