Abdul Latheef Naha

Undercurrents in LDF favour; no enthusiasm in UDF camp

PONNANI: If campaigning and the mood of the average voter are any indications, then the verdict in Ponnani is written. The fate of Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) leader M.P. Gangadharan is sealed in Ponnani. He is giving too feeble a fight against Left Democratic Front (LDF) convener Paloli Mohammed Kutty.

Unlike other constituencies in the district, the campaigning in Ponnani is visibly lopsided. Mr. Mohammed Kutty has entered the third round of canvassing, already covering nearly the entire constituency. More than stump speeches, he is concentrating on house-to-house, person-to-person campaign. Mr. Gangadharan's electoral stagecoach has just come on the track after the initial standoff in the United Democratic Front (UDF) camp.

Neither the Congress nor the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is confident of a victory against Mr. Mohammed Kutty. But Mr. Gangadharan is. The embarrassment the UDF faced in the wake of Mr. Gangadharan's candidature is yet to tide over, despite a truce reached at the insistence of the Congress State leadership.

Notwithstanding the confidence exuded by Mr. Gangadharan, hardly anyone in Ponnani is sure whether the Congress and IUML votes en mass will fall in his ballot. So much is the resentment against Mr. Gangadharan brewing in the local UDF circles.

IUML voters of Ponnani find themselves in a tough situation. The DIC(K) has threatened to defeat the IUML candidates elsewhere, if the IUML works against Mr. Gangadharan in Ponnani.

The age-old Chamravattom project is on top of the electoral promises made by both fronts. The UDF alleges that Mr. Mohammedkutty had done nothing for Ponnani when it elected him in 1996. The LDF says only Mr. Mohammedkutty can do something for this constituency, especially in a situation where the LDF is projected to come to power. The figures too are all against Mr. Gangadharan - except that he had won from Ponnani in 1977, 1982 and 2001. His last victory was against CPI(M)'s T.K. Hamza by 6,607 votes.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the LDF had secured a lead of 5,486 votes in Ponnani Assembly segment. In two years since, the LDF has improved its strength in Ponnani, capturing all the six panchayats of Edappal, Alankode, Veliyankode, Maranchery, Perumpadappu and Nannamukku and the municipal council of Ponnani. The CPI(M) alone wrested 30 of the 48 municipal seats in the local body elections held in September last year.

Ponnani Assembly constituency has a history of sending both the UDF and LDF. No front here could secure more than 50 per cent votes since 1980. The biggest victory margin here is credited to IUML's V.P.C. Thangal, who beat K.G.K.. Menon of the Congress by 13,821 votes in 1967. Since then, none in Ponnani got a victory margin of more than 10,000 votes. If the current trend can translate itself into votes, then Mr. Mohammedkutty can make history in Ponnani.

The BJP, though no challenge for both fronts, has put up vigorous campaign. Party State secretary Sobha Surendran says she will come to the second place in Ponnani.

BJP admits that it suffered some cross-voting in 2001, when its candidate Manjeri Narayanan secured only 5,714 votes. Ponnani has 1,59,469 voters with 85,729 of them women. As many as 2,038 new voters have entered the list here in the last two months.