A. Harikumar

ALAPPUZHA: Two seasoned political leaders are engaged in a serious fight for the Ambalappuzha seat in the district in the coming Assembly elections. The voters in the constituency include a large number of farmers, agricultural labourers and fishermen.

To recapture the constituency from D. Sugathan of the Democratic Indira Congress-Karunakaran (DIC-K), elected from here in 2001 as the Congress candidate, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has fielded G. Sudhakaran, its district secretary, as the Left Democratic Front candidate.

Mr. Sugathan, who resigned before the completion of his term following the split in the Congress and formation of the DIC(K), is the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate this time also.

G. Baladevan, a former executive engineer with the Irrigation Department, is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate.

The Ambalappuzha constituency, formed in 1965, is of special significance to the CPI(M), as it is where the martyr's column of the Punnapra-Vayalar struggle and the house of Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan are situated.

K.S. Krishna Kurup of the Congress was the first MLA from the constituency. Mr. Achuthanandan was elected from here in 1967 and 1970. The Revolutionary Socialist Party leader K.K. Kumara Pillai was elected in 1977.

Dheevara Sabha State general secretary V. Dinakaran won the seat as the UDF candidate in 1982 and 1987. The CPI(M) leaders who had won include the party State committee members P.K. Chandranandan in 1980, C.K. Sadasivan in 1991 and Susheela Gopalan in 1996.

The DIC(K) has a significant presence in the constituency, with many voters in the coastal panchayat area of Purakkad and the Takazhi panchayat limits in Kuttanad backing the party. The party candidates who contested independently in the previous local body elections led to the defeat of the UDF candidates then.

Rumblings in the DIC(K) over his candidature was the first problem Mr. Sugathan had to face when the party announced his name. The district leadership requested the party State president K. Muraleedharan to shift him from the constituency.

The rift between the local leadership of his party and the Congress is also posing problems to Mr. Sugathan. But his campaign managers say the problems have been sorted out and the campaign has picked up. They say Mr. Sugathan had initiated several development works in the constituency and that will help him.

Mr. Sudhakaran had started the work early, conducting family meetings in the first stage. At present, he is on a campaign tour of the constituency.

He says that several of the development works claimed to have been undertaken by Mr. Sugathan had been planned when the late Susheela Gopalan was the MLA from the constituency. The BJP has strength in certain pockets in the constituency and is active in campaigning.

Though development issues matter, politics is the deciding factor in Ambalappuzha. While Chief Minister Oommen Chandy campaigned for Mr. Sugathan, Mr. Achuthanandan addressed three campaign meetings in the constituency for Mr. Sudhakaran.