Things could not get any closer in the Palakkad Lok Sabha constituency where all the three main contenders — the Left Democratic Front (LDF), United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — are engaged in an intense struggle for supremacy.
Palakkad has never been anybody's preserve and in the last election, LDF candidate M.B. Rajesh could only scrape through.
This time, M.P. Veerendrakumar for the UDF has made the electoral battle fierce still and both the alliances are trying to corner every potential vote in the constituency, which has a high density of farmer population, industrial workers and tribespeople, focusing primarily on local issues.
Shobha Surendran of the BJP has also registered her strong presence in the constituency, engaging both in serious debate on development questions.Farmers cry foul
Farmers who form a chunk of the voters feel that none of the political parties have done justice to them, especially when prices turn unpredictable and prices of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides skyrocket. While UDF campaigners have been trying to convince the farmers about the steps taken by the Central and State governments to offer them minimum support price and subsidies, LDF leaders have been alleging that none of these schemes have helped the farmers. Faced with the charge that he is an outsider, Mr. Veerendrakumar has been reminding the farmers that he had fought for their rights to natural resources, particularly water, at Plachimada.
The Central government’s failure to make the Kanjikode rail coach factory a reality is a major point on which the LDF seeks to put the Congress and allies on the defensive.Unrealised promises
The unrealised promises of an IIT and the stagnation of the Kanjikode-Pudussery-Walayar industrial belt are other issues over which the LDF has mounted a strong attack against the UDF. Sensing the importance of the tribal votes, concentrated in areas such as Attappady, Walayar, and Malampuzha, the LDF campaigners have been highlighting the recent spurt in mortality of tribal infants and the consequent negative image that Kerala had at the national level.
The Kasturirangan report is a major talking point as six grama panchayats — three each in the Mannarkkad and Palakkad Assembly segments — have areas categorised as ecologically sensitive. Traditionally, the settler farmers in the high ranges have voted for the UDF and the LDF bid is to win over them citing the Kasturirangan panel recommendations.
Mr. Rajesh’s campaigners have been using the social media to reach out to the voters, especially the youth, and Mr. Veerendrakumar’s campaigners have come out with campaign material on the new media platform, which is a novel phenomenon in the constituency.
The BJP candidate has succeeded in taking the battle to both the rival camps with her oratorical and debating skills. At election rallies, she has been tearing into both the major alliances and trying to solicit votes for a new India under the leadership of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Ms. Surendran is looking forward to increase her party’s tally and the votes that the BJP candidate corners would be keenly watched, both for the success of the party in broadening its voter base and impacting the eventual outcome.
Although there are candidates of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Trinamool Congress, Aam Asdmi Party (AAP), and SDPI in the fray, the only other candidate who has gained some visibility is Thnnilapuram Radhakrishnan of the Welfare Party.