What strikes one as one travels to the interior of the Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency, is the seeming quiet out there. With the sun beating down mercilessly, there are not too many to be seen on the road. But at junctions and small markets dotting the sprawling constituency, there are people ready with their take on what is emerging as a fierce multi-cornered contest.

The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has had a comfortable run in this constituency, winning here in all the seven elections held since 1989. But the going does not seem to be that easy this time, with T. Siddique of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), K. Surendran of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Ambalathara Kunhikrishnan of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) engaged in a no-holds-barred campaign in the constituency.

Third time in a row

The soft-spoken P. Karunakaran, MP, is in the fray for the third consecutive time. If Mr. Karunakaran’s campaign is centred around his efforts to usher in development in the district, representing utilisation of 98 per cent of the MP’s Local Area Development funds, Mr. Siddique devotes a major chunk of his electioneering to question the CPI(M) leader’s claim. Mr. Surendran’s campaign theme is that it is futile to vote for the nominees of the two alliances as the region has remained neglected all through its history.

The LDF campaign managers are banking on votes from the strongholds of Kalliassery, Payyannur, Thrikkaripur, Kanhangad, and Uduma Assembly segments, and appear to be unperturbed over the novel grassroots-level campaign spree by the rivals. “We have already completed two rounds of door-to-door campaigning,” says LDF Lok Sabha mandalam secretary and Thrikkaripur MLA K. Kunhiraman. By his reckoning, Mr. Karunakaran would increase his margin of victory to at least 80,000 votes this time.

Hoping for an upset

The UDF camp, on the other hand, is highlighting the achievements of the Union and State governments, which they claim, have provided more sops to aid the ongoing relief and rehabilitation package to hundreds of endosulfan victims’ families. They predict an upset victory of around 30,000 margin in the traditional Left stronghold. Mr. Siddique, they say, has succeeded in reaching out to voters, especially in the coastal and hilly hamlets in a short span of time.

There will be a marked improvement in polling by party’s traditional supporters this time as compared to 2009, says M. C. Jose, who is in charge of the UDF campaign in the Kanhangad Assembly segment.

The BJP, which had netted 1,25,482 votes in 2009 polls, is looking forward to an upset victory from Kasaragod, riding on the Modi wave. Mr. Surendran and his team of campaigners have been concentrating more on the Left and UDF citadels in the coastal and hilly areas. The presence of anti-endosulfan activist Mr. Kunhikrishnan as AAP nominee, seeking to mobilise the anti-establishment votes, would impact both the UDF and LDF nominees as he has considerable sway among select endosulfan-affected localities in the constituency.

However, Mahin Kelat, an IUML activist at Bovikkanam, says that endosulfan victims’ families are quite content with the financial and other relief packages implemented by the UDF government. If anything, Mr. Kunhikrishnan’s presence would hamper prospects of only the LDF taking into account the pro-Left stand adopted by him in the past, Mr. Kelat says. The campaigning is all set to go into a frenzy with top leaders such as Narendra Modi, A. K. Antony, Brinda Karat, Pinarayi Vijayan, and V. M. Sudheeran making a whirlwind tour of the constituency.