Tough electoral battle on the cards

C.S. Narayanan Kutty
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Development, rehabilitation of Endosulfan victims to be crucial issues

: Kasaragod is set to witness a fierce electoral battle with both the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) claiming fair chances of victory in all the five constituencies.

Having won four constituencies in the district in the 2006 Assembly polls, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) is now nursing hopes of even wresting the traditional Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) stronghold of Kasaragod. The CPI(M) has accused the IUML of “stagnating” development in the constituency, which has been controlled by the IUML for the last 30 years.

People want continuity of the LDF government to ensure the series of development and welfare projects implemented by the LDF, CPI(M) district secretary K.P. Sathish Chandran said recently.

District Congress Committee (DCC) president K. Veluthambu on the other hand put the blame on the LDF government for failing to augment development works. He is hopeful of the Congress winning all the seats in the district.

“If the UDF fields candidates who have a good rapport with the people and ensures sustained and well-oiled campaign machinery, the Opposition alliance, considering the anti-incumbency factor, is certain to stage an upset victory in the Left citadel,” he said.

The issues that would be crucial in the polls this time around will be slow-paced development, poor condition of roads and inadequate rehabilitation of Endosulfan victims, most of them hailing from poor economic background.

The district has a sizeable number of NRI voters and those working outside the State. The District Election office said it had made arrangements to enlist the NRIs in the voters' list.

Kasaragod district has five segments of Manjeswaram, Kasaragod, Uduma, Kanhangad and Thrikkarippur, with a total electorate of 8,50,619. Male voters constitute 4,11,373 and females 4,39,246, according to District Election Department sources. The officials said Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) had been issued to all voters, enumerated up to January 5 this year.

BJP hopeful

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to open its account in the Assembly this time. It has already begun vigorous and systematic campaigning, especially in Kasaragod and Manjeswaram.

Even before the formal announcement of candidature, sitting CPI(M) MLA C.H. Kunhambu and BJP State general secretary K. Surendran have kicked off electioneering in the northern-most border constituency of Manjeswaram, which is expected to witness one of the fiercest contests in the district this time.

The late BJP stalwart K.G. Marar had lost the battle here by a slender margin of 1,072 votes to IUML leader Cherkalam Abdulla in the 1991 Assembly polls. Manjeswaram has a total electorate of 1,75,647, with male voters numbering 88,174 and females  87,473 against the total electorate of 1,54,216 voters in the 2006 polls, showing an increase of 21,431 voters in the constituency where NRI votes could decide the poll outcome.

The Kasaragod segment could be more or less termed a safe seat for the UDF as the constituency has been controlled by the IUML for nearly three decades.

However, sustained campaign by the BJP and the CPI(M) may have a little bearing on the victory margin. IUML leader C.T. Ahmedali had won the last Assembly polls by 10,342 votes beating his BJP rival P. Ravindran while pushing the LDF-supported INL rival N.A. Nellikunnu to third spot. The segment has total electorate of 1,57,761 (79,508 males and 78,253 females) against the tally of 1,54,864 in 2006.

The merger of Muliyar grama panchayat, which sided with the UDF in the past polls, with the Uduma segment has raised the prospects of the LDF and BJP nominees.

However, the UDF does not expect to lose its traditional stronghold due to the fresh delimitation process. Sitting CPI(M) MLA K.V. Kunhiraman had won the Uduma segment in the previous two polls. However, the UDF is planning

to field a strong candidate this time to repeat the victory registered in the recently-held local body polls as the segment is witnessing a flurry of developmental works related to the famed Bekal fort.

During the fresh delimitation process, the segment got Muliyar panchayat annexed to it at the cost of Ajanur panchayat where

the CPI(M) always enjoyed an upper hand till the recent local body polls. This has boosted the hopes of the UDF for an upset win in the Left citadel. Uduma has the largest number of NRIs in the segment and the recent merger of the INL faction with the IUML has raised the hopes of the UDF. Of the total 1,72,557 voters, 83,351 are males and 89,206 females, against the figure of 1,73,779 in the 2006 polls.

The poll outcome in the Kanhangad Assembly segment, which hitherto was known as Hosdurg and was a reserved constituency that stood by the Left, has become unpredictable in view of the changed political ambience favouring the UDF, which has sizeable support base in the hilly hamlets dominated by Christian migrants. A reserved constituency till now, the LDF has been winning here in the last elections with CPI leader Pallipram Balan retaining the seat with a majority of 34,939 votes.

Political profile

However, with the clubbing of the CPI(M) citadel of nearby Neeleswaram municipality and Cheruvathur grama panchayat with Thrikkarippur and the hitherto Left stronghold of Ajanur panchayat getting annexed to it, political circles are keenly watching the emerging situation in the segment. Kanhangad has a total electorate of 1,76,371 (82,761 male and 93,610 female) against the last poll tally of 1,83,419.

Thrikkarippur, nevertheless, could be termed a safer seat for the LDF though the Left citadels of Kayyur and Karivellur, Kankol and Karivellur panchayats have been taken out of the constituency. The sitting CPI(M) MLA K.. Kunhiraman had won the last poll by a margin of 23,823 votes.

However, the margin may be reduced this time as the failure to fulfil the long-standing demand for Thrikkarippur taluk, a sub-treasury and a railway level crossing at Chandera could mar the LDF prospects this time.

The constituency at the southern border of the district has a total electorate of 1,68,283 (male 77,579 and female 90,704) against the total figure of 1,84,611 in the 2006 poll.



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