Peerumade constituency in Idukki district is going to the polls with two grama panchayats added from Udumbanchola constituency, making it the largest constituency in the district area-wise.

The main fight is between sitting MLA E.S. Bijimol of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and E.M. Augusthy of the Congress who was defeated by her in the last elections.

P.P. Sanu, Bharatiya Janata Party's district president, is also in the fray.

Though Peerumade is an estate-based constituency, the two panchayats added in the delimitation process - Chakkupallom and Ayyappancoil - are farmer-dominated areas raising the prospect of a close fight between the LDF and the UDF.

In the last elections, Ms Bijimol won by a margin of nearly 5,000 votes against Mr Augusthy who represented the constituency continuously for two terms before.

It is more local issues plaguing the constituency - where the tea sector, the backbone of the economy, has been facing a crisis for more than a decade - that are in focus in the campaign.

The break-down of the traditional labour system and the migration of labourers are major factors that decide the outcome of the elections where there is no vote bank for any party or front in general. The campaign is mainly person-to-person interaction by local leaders and candidates.

The main towns are devoid of much publicity materials though loud-speaker announcements highlighting the developmental aspects are a key method of campaign.

The constituency has a large section of Tamil voters especially estate labourers and the main contestants are familiar to the voters.

The tribal voters are also a significant factor and both the fronts have made inroads into the politically-aware estate labour class.

While the LDF has an edge in the labour-dominated estate areas, the UDF is banking on the newly added grama panchayats for dominance in the constituency.

Ms Bijimol is seeking the mandate once again to complete the development projects in the constituency under the LDF rule.

‘Workers neglected'

The closed tea estates are a main area of discussion and the LDF could reopen many estates, she says. Mr. Augusthy says that though some estates were reopened, no benefits were given to the workers and their life has became miserable.

The areas where the estate workers live are devoid of basic facilities. Mr Sanu hopes that he can garner independent votes and highlights the “double-standards” of the two fronts over the issues faced by the estate workers.

He claims that the Pullumedu tragedy was the result of the apathy of the authorities and people's wrath will be reflected in the elections.

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