G. Mahadevan

Nemom is even handed in returning Left and Congress candidates

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Hair-splitting debates on the efficacy of various development schemes initiated by UDF and LDF MLAs in the past are the bedrock on which the electoral battle in the Nemom constituency is shaping up. Here, Transport Minister N. Shakthan, in seeking to retain the seat that he wrested from CPI(M) leader Venganoor Bhaskaran in 2001, has once again locked horns with Mr. Bhaskaran in what is seen as a straight contest.

In 2001, while Mr. Shakthan received 46.35 per cent of the votes polled, Mr. Bhaskaran got 38.69 per cent. That year, the BJP's M. S. Kumar polled 16,872 votes; 13.81 per cent of the valid votes. This time, the BJP is seeking to build on its vote bank in the constituency and has fielded Malayinkeezhu Radhakrishnan.

Nemom has more or less been even handed in returning Left and Congress candidates ever since the first State Assembly elections in 1957. While Left candidates have represented Nemom five times since then, Congress MLAs have emerged victorious four times. In all the Lok Sabha polls since 1996, on the other hand, Nemom has been given leads to LDF candidates.

However, history does not seem to be on the mind of Mr. Shakthan's campaign that is going ahead on the development plank. "I never campaign by promising this that and the other," Mr. Shakthan told The Hindu, "I only point to what I have done for Nemom, development projects that have touched every sphere of life." UDF campaign workers take pains to point out that Mr. Shakthan, as Transport Minister, had brought bus services to hitherto neglected parts of Nemom. His contribution to the building of bridges and roads in different parts of the constituency is also being highlighted.

The LDF game plan is to point out the flip side to these claims of Mr. Shakthan and to highlight those promises that he failed to keep during his tenure as MLA. "In 2001, Shakthan promised that if he were elected, he would shift the Vilappilsala garbage factory in three months. This did not happen. He said he would reopen the Balaramapuram spinning mill. The mill in fact is now about to be sold. There is a drinking water situation in Nemom. Yet no work has been done on the proposed water tank in Malayinkeezhu for the last five years... "

Mr. Bhaskaran is ready with his charges against the sitting MLA, "the people know all this and understand all this."

The LDF is also projecting the `clean image' of Mr. Bhaskaran by repeatedly reminding the voters of the allegations of corruption against Mr. Shakthan. "My campaign can be summed up in the message that real development has taken place in Nemom only when Left candidates have come to office here. Of course, this includes the development that I initiated when I was MLA," Mr. Bhaskaran added.

The BJP is making the case that both the UDF and the LDF have used the development theme only as a façade while indulging in what the party calls "crass casteism" during the elections. "When the NDA was in power at the centre, the BJP moved to declare Thiruvananthapuram as a metro city, there were plans to bring a wagon-cleaning centre near the Nemom railway station. This was torpedoed by the present UPA Government," points out BJP leader B. K. Shekhar who is in charge of the party's electioneering in the constituency.

Nemom is made up of six panchayats and the areas coming under the old Nemom panchayat that once came under the city corporation. The Congress is in power in only the Vilappil panchayat.

All the rest - Balaramapuram, Maranallur, Pallikkal, Malayinkeezhu and Vilavoorkkal - are held by the LDF.

Mr. Shakthan entered politics through the KSC. He later joined the Congress and was Thiruvananthapuram DCC member from 1991 to 1997, member of the KPCC executive from 1991 to 1994. He entered the electoral arena in 1997 and lost to Mr. Neelalohitadasan Nadar in Kovalam. In 1982, he won from there on a DSP ticket.

Mr. Bhaskaran came to the CPI(M) in 1966 from the RSP. He is now the member of the party's Thiruvananthapuram district committee and the district president of the Kerala Karshaka Sanghom.

Mr. Radhakrishnan joined the BJP in 1982 and is now the State general secretary of the Bharatiya Yuva Morcha. He was member of the telecom employment advisory committees during the tenure of the NDA Government. There are 1,76,834 in Nemom of which 92,131 are women.