UDF calls for stability, LDF for change

If Irikkur is a constituency in the district that has been much sought after by the United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket aspirants, there is a reason for it.

Irikkur, always a stronghold of the UDF if past elections are an indication, is believed by the UDF to have remained a stronghold even after the delimitation.

Despite protests within the local unit of the Congress, even before the party finalised its list of candidates, against Congress leader K.C. Joseph's candidature in the constituency which he represented in the Assembly over the past 29 years in a row, the party leadership did not budge.

Perhaps this protest within the local Congress against Mr. Joseph is what gives his young Left Democratic Front (LDF) rival P. Santhosh Kumar of the Communist Party of India (CPI) hope about some unseen undercurrents likely to work in his favour in the election.

Mr. Kumar, All India Youth Federation (AIYF) general secretary, and a debutante in the election field, takes on Mr. Joseph with this hope. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate M.G. Ramakrishnan is also in the race in the constituency.

The UDF camp brooks no suggestion that Mr. Joseph's campaign is in any way overshadowed by the initial local protest against his candidature. Activists of the UDF hope that if the front is elected to power, Mr. Joseph is likely to get a berth in the Ministry.

The UDF campaigners make much use of this likelihood during the campaign. They also tell the voters that the constituency which comprises hill areas of the district inhabited by Christian settlers has witnessed unprecedented development during the past three decades.

The LDF side counters this by saying that though the constituency has been held by the Congress as a monopoly, development is yet to reach in many parts of the hill areas here. Mr. Kumar in his campaign meetings in the constituency tells the people that Irikkur is 30 years behind as far as development is concerned.

He appeals to voters to cast their votes for a change. The BJP candidate is hopeful of getting votes of people who are dissatisfied with the UDF and the LDF to address issues concerning garbage disposal and water scarcity as well as religious extremism and developmental backwardness.

In the last Lok Sabha election, the UDF's margin in the Irikkur Assembly segment crossed 28,000 votes. Though that margin recorded a decline in the local body election, the UDF retained its influence in the constituency by winning seven out of the nine grama panchayats there. The UDF hopes that the delinking of the CPI(M) stronghold panchayats of Malappattam and Padiyur-Kallyad panchayat from the constituency has enhanced the UDF candidate's chance to win the seat for the seventh time. Mr. Joseph saw his tough battle in 2006 when he just scraped home with a margin of 1,831 votes.