Development issues set to occupy prime space in the campaign
A tough battle is in the offing in the capital which has acquired a new constituency profile following delimitation.
The maiden contest to the Assembly after the delimitation exercise poses stiff challenge to the rival Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) as well as the BJP, which wields considerable clout in the district.
Winning nine of the 14 segments viz. Attingal, Kilimanoor (SC), Vamanapuram, Nedumangad, Thiruvananthapuram North, East, West, Neyyattinkara and Parassala, the LDF established its sway in the previous elections. The UDF had to be content with Varkala, Aryanad, Kazhakuttam, Nemom and Kovalam.
The fronts were evenly matched in the Lok Sabha elections, with the UDF winning Thiruvananthapuram, and the LDF, the newly formed Attingal. Local body elections saw the UDF making inroads into the LDF bastion wresting the Thiruvananthapuram district panchayat and a sizeable share of panchayats from the LDF.
Even in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation council, a stronghold of the LDF, especially the CPI(M), the LDF had to be satisfied with the majority of just one seat.
The BJP too succeeded in registering its presence in the rural and urban areas of the district.
While delimiting the constituencies, status quo has been maintained in terms of the number of segments. The contours of the segments have been redrawn in such a manner that Thiruvananthapuram North, East, West, Kilimanoor and Aryanad have ceased to exist and five new constituencies, Thiruvananthapuram, Vattiyurkavu, Aruvikkara, Chirayinkeezhu and Kattakada have been carved out.
Thus Aryanad, which returned Congress leader G.Karthikeyan four times in a row; Kilimanoor, which stood with the LDF in all elections after 1987; North, which had mostly elected LDF nominees and Law Minister M. Vijayakumar in 2006; as well as the East and West where the LDF and the UDF enjoy equal strength; have disappeared into the annals of history. The BJP too is a force to be reckoned with in all these urban segments.
The most keenly watched will be the contest in the five new segments and Nemom, where senior BJP leader O. Rajagopal has started campaigning. Both the LDF and the UDF have exuded confidence of winning the five segments.
The electorate, mainly upper middle class and middle class, has never been particularly loyal to any front. No precise benchmark can be set for their preferences and that factor alone makes prediction difficult.
The minority communities have a decisive role in influencing the verdict. Organisations like the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the SNDP Yogam also have the clout to sway the outcome.
Thiruvananthapuram segment comprises core corporation wards, former Thiruvananthapuram West as well as the major portion of the East segment and parts of the North segment.
Aruivkkara includes eight panchayats in Nedumangad taluk and Vamanapuram has nine in Nedumangad taluk.
Nedumangad constituency includes Nedumangad municipality, two panchayats in Nedumangad taluk and three in Thiruvananthapuram taluk. Sitting MLA Mancode Radhakrishnan, CPI, has prevailed over Congress leader Palode Ravi since 2001. Mr. Ravi lost by 156 votes in 2001 and 85 votes in 2006. The UDF will have to make an all-out bid to regain the seat.
If the CPI decides against fielding candidates who have contested twice, the LDF will field a new candidate. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Ravi will be fielded once again.
With 18 corporation wards, Kazhakuttam too has acquired an urban character. Varkala, comprising Varkala municipality and seven grama panchayats in Chirayinkeezhu taluk, is expected to witness a keen battle. The LDF succeeded in retaining the constituency thrice after 1987.
The late Varkala Radhakrishnan was elected from here twice. Since 2001, Varkala Kahar has been returned from the constituency. The fight in the constituency has thus become prestigious for both the fronts.
Attingal (SC), comprising Attingal municipality and nine panchayats in Chirayinkeezhu taluk, and Chirayinkeezhu, with six panchayats in Chirayinkeezhu taluk and two in Thiruvananthapuram, are LDF bastions.
With eight panchayats in Nedumangad taluk and Kattakada, six panchayats in Neyyattinkara taluk, Aruvikkara too has gained prominence as a newly formed constituency.
Neyyattinkara constituency comprising Neyyattinkara municipality and six panchayats in the district and the coastal Kovalam segment that elected George Mercier in 2006 are quite significant for the UDF.
While the LDF wrested Neyyattinkara from the UDF in 2006, it lost Kovalam to Mr. Mercier. The UDF will have to adopt new strategies to gain control of the two segments.
Another interesting factor with regard to Kovalam is the interest evinced by A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar to contest from the segment. Having quit the BSP and joined the Janata Dal, he has openly expressed his desire in contesting as LDF candidate. Parassala with nine panchayats had voted in favour of both the fronts.
Women voters outnumber men in the district. Of the 2,28,78,767 voters, there are 1,19,19,652 women and 1,09,59,115 men.
Along with the major national and regional issues, including the 2G spectrum scam, inflation and appointment of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, development issues are set to occupy a prime space in the campaign.
The BJP has already entered the fray but it remains to be seen whether it will open account in the district. The LDF is expected to focus on the development initiatives of the government and the corruption charges levelled against the UPA and the UDF leaders in the State.
The UDF campaign will focus on the poor maintenance of roads, allegations regarding backdoor appointments and corruption charges against the LDF.
The greatest challenge for the rival fronts will be to mobilise maximum possible voters to increase the polling percentage. The general indifference of the voters is a matter of concern for all parties and the focus will be on wooing them.