Sangeeth Kurian

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate and sitting MLA of Kazhakuttam M.A. Vaheed who approached a group of children at Channankara with a request for canvassing votes was stumped for an answer when a 12-year-old boy wanted to know what the candidate would give them in return.

Though caught off guard, Mr. Vaheed responded with his characteristic smile and gave a pat on his shoulder before boarding the waiting car.

"The campaigning has been quite hectic," said Mr. Vaheed. "As the State has been included in the first phase of elections we got only 18 days this time," he said.

Nevertheless, the UDF candidate is quite confident that the electorate will repose faith in him for a second time. "I have the good will of the people and I am confident that they will give me another opportunity to complete the developmental works I have initiated in the constituency," he said. "I have also a blue print of the development activities I am planning to undertake, including setting up of hospitals, schools and anganwadis, if elected back," he said proudly.

Meanwhile, at Kulathoor, nearly 25 kilometres away, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate Kadakampally Surendran is wooing voters with the promise of "bringing back the good days of development," which he initiated during his tenure as MLA in 1996. Mr. Surendran had won the seat with a record margin of 24,057 votes then.

"Drinking water has become a major issue for the people here in the last five years," said Mr. Surendran, even as he alights from the campaign vehicle, an open jeep, and moves hurriedly into the crowded Attipra market. "The Rs.20-crore project aimed at bringing water from the Vamanapuram river is yet to be completed," he said. "I can assure you one thing, if I elected I will solve the water crisis," he told the people.

Mr. Surendran was also critical about the growing presence of `goonda mafia' in the locality. "Nearly 18 murders took place in Kazhakuttam in the last five years. The number of gang wars too has risen," he said.

In fact, Mr. Surendran's promise of `bringing back the good days of 1996," when he was the MLA of the constituency, is challenged by Mr. Vaheed: "If Mr. Surendran was so concerned about developing his constituency, why did he move to Attingal in the subsequent elections?" he asked.

Though trailing behind both the fronts in terms of visibility, Bharatiya Janata Party's Madvoor Radhakrishnan Unnithan is making some spirited attempts to "expose the minority appeasement policy" of both the fronts. "The both the LDF and the UDF are wooing the voters along communal lines and then accusing the BJP of being a communal party," Mr. Unnithan said. "We are hopeful that the voters will realise this double standards," he said.

The electorate in Kazhakuttam has strength of 1, 64,003 with male voters numbering 75,516 and female voters numbering 87,973.

The Assembly constituency comprises Pothencode, Andoorkonam, Mangalapuram, Kadhinamkulam and Sreekaryam panchayats and three Corporation wards.