It is only 8.30 a.m., yet the sun is beating down mercilessly as a small group of party activists assemble at Kanakode, near Vattapara in the Nedumangad Assembly segment. There is a flurry of activity as the LDF candidate A. Sampath, all smiles, arrives on the scene.

After exchanging pleasantries with fellow activists and seeking votes from a few families waiting by the roadside, he mounts a decorated open-top vehicle provided with a sunshade. Along the way, at regular intervals, the vehicles stop for receptions arranged by the well-oiled party machinery of the LDF. Mr. Sampath, the sitting MP, tersely exhorts the people to cast their votes for him. “On April 10, look for our party symbol — the hammer, sickle, and star and my name Dr. A. Sampath,” he says, proud to flaunt his newly acquired doctoral degree in law. The LDF campaign is carefully constructed around the achievements of Mr. Sampath as an MP, the failure of the UPA government on multiple fronts, and the communal agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It also focusses on the solar scam and the financial crisis in the State. The campaign highlights the various projects taken up with the Rs.20.5 crore spent under Mr. Sampath’s MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme).

“The Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) campuses coming up at Vithura and the railway reservation centres at Nedumangad, Attingal, and Kattakada are the result of the tireless efforts of the MP,” says a campaign manager. The Kottoor-Ambasamudram road and the Attingal bypass are among the LDF’s promises to the electorate. Party activists exhort the electorate to vote for the secular, democratic alliance of 14 parties as an alternative to the UPA and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).Stiff fightMeanwhile, the UDF campaign motorcade is making slower progress in the Varkala Assembly segment. UDF candidate and Mahila Congress State president Bindu Krishna, who is putting up a stiff fight for the seat, is at pains to highlight the lack of development in the Attingal constituency. “I am one among you,” she appeals to the voters, mostly women, who have gathered at the Kuttikada junction in Ottur, a CPI(M)-held panchayat.

The UDF campaign managers have been careful to exploit the chinks in the LDF armour. “Why has the Attingal bypass remained a pipedream all these years?” thunders Ms. Krishna, wiping her brow in the sweltering heat. It is a tough grind for the candidates who spend more than 14 hours on the road daily, except for a 30-minute break. BJP confidentThe BJP camp, meanwhile, is struggling to catch up with the spirited campaign of its rivals in the fray. The party candidate, S. Girijakumari, who recently defected from the CPI(M) along with her supporters, began her vehicle campaign only on Wednesday. But campaign managers are confident of catching up despite the late start. They expect the former CPI(M) leader and Vellanad panchayat president to net quite a few Left votes in the Nedumangad Assembly segment and double the party’s tally of 47,000 in the 2009 elections.