As campaigning for the big day on Saturday reached its final crescendo on Thursday, election pundits were left pondering over which party had an upper hand on the situation, though less than 48 hours remained for the election. And that, at least for some, could sound strange in a constituency where the same front has won in the previous four elections, the last two being with majorities of over 16,000 votes.
The November 7 by-poll, campaigning for which started with predictions of yet another runaway win for the United Democratic Front (UDF), is now heading for a tight climax, with some Congress quarters even whispering that their candidate, A.A. Shukoor of the Congress, might just scrape through. The ground work by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), fighting with a lot at stake, has been that effective. Whether that could help G. Krishnaprasad of the CPI salvage his party’s lost pride, however, remains a big question.
The CPI, which has been fielding candidates for the LDF in Alappuzha for the last several elections, has found it tough for the last 22 years to convince voters to favour them. This time, keeping aside intra-alliance differences, the CPI (M) too has been working hard, with its entire party machinery on the field.
According to the LDF’s think-tanks, the circumstances which gave the UDF a lead of over 50,000 votes in he Lok Sabha elections in April, has changed with the UDF now on the back-foot politically. Moreover, several factors that were negative to the LDF last time have more or the less been neutralized.
“One was the Latin Catholic Church’s stand, with pastoral letters and appeals to vote against the CPI (M) being circulated. This time, the Church does not sound that unfriendly. The Nair Service Society too, unlike last time, seems to be more neutral. Though a few have tried to turn the Church against us again, those attempts have been in vain,” a senior LDF leader said.
Finance Minister, T.M. Thomas Isaac, who along with his Cabinet colleagues, has been in the forefront of LDF campaign here, is however of the opinion that the LDF has maintained an upper hand right from the start of the campaign. This, he says, has triggered panic in the rival camp, even forcing Mr. Shukoor to resort to tactics such as approaching the High Court for deployment of Central forces here.
“The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, its negative impact on the farmers and the fishing community, the campaigning for the UDF by the NDF which has known terrorist leanings and the fact that the Congress has not been able to do anything on the developmental aspect though they represented the constituency for 13 years on a trot, will all be in the minds of voters as they cast their votes,” he feels.
On the other hand, the UDF feels that the “anti-people rule” of the LDF, the “negative approach” of the State Government towards Central schemes and initiatives like the Kuttanad Package, the law and order situation that has “gone from bad to worse” and the Government’s “failure to provide basic infrastructure” are the factors that will work in favour of Mr. Shukoor.
“We are extremely confident of a sweeping victory,” is how KPCC president, Ramesh Chennithala, put it here the other day. How many community votes the PDP’s K.A. Hassan can bag is a factor causing concern for the UDF, while the LDF says it is hardly bothered about that.