Electoral battles are often messy affairs. Contestants and their supporters seldom leave anything to chance and are ready to go any length to ensure their candidate’s victory. Often, mischief is the name of the game, both to cause discomfiture to the rivals and lift the chances of those for who such little games are played. The Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency, going to the polls on April 10, presents a distinctly different picture at least at this point in time and in the general demeanour and exchanges of the main contestants.
United Democratic Front candidate K.P. Dhanapalan of the Congress, Left Democratic Front’s C.N. Jayadevan of the CPI, Bharatiya Janata Party's K.P. Sreeshan, and Aam Aadmi Party's Sara Joseph are showing the people of Thrissur that civility is not alien to the electoral fray. And, perhaps reflecting the personality of the candidates, the campaign has been bereft of mutual mud-slinging or any firework. The campaign had begun at a very low key and still retains a sedate pace, though a little over a fortnight remains for the polling.
Though the campaign itself looks somewhat of a whisper, it all began with a lot of suspense at least for the UDF candidate. With incumbent P.C. Chacko opting to contest in neighbouring Chalakkudy, it became imperative for Mr. Dhanapalan to move over to Thrissur. But that happened after much drama, both in the constituency and in the national capital. Mr. Chacko's decision to move to Chalakkudy has pacified the ‘I’ group leadership in the district, which had been sulking over Mr. Chacko's not-so-friendly attitude towards the district leadership. Though Mr. Dhanapalan is an ‘A’ faction leader, he enjoys the acceptance of all groups. The UDF pins its hopes on the non-controversial image and experience of Mr. Dhanapalan. Mr. Jayadeven, a second-time contestant in the constituency, enjoys the advantage of being a resident of Thrissur. Known as a ‘gentleman politician’ with long experience, Mr. Jayadevan knows the pulse of the constituency. Though he lost the battle to P.C. Chacko in 2009, the victory margin was a mere 25,151 votes.
Mr. Sreeshan is also an equally familiar name and face given his role as one of the spokespersons for his party on the visual media. The BJP had taken a severe blow in the 2009 Lok Sabha election with the number of votes it polled slipping from 72,108 in 2004 to 54,680. His task is cut out: to improve the BJP tally. The presence of writer and activist Sara Joseph is another significant change in the poll scene this time. There is great eagerness among many to know the influence she would have on the voters. United Nurses Association president Jasmin Shah is also in the fray as an Independent candidate.
Electoral contests in Thrissur over the past few decades have had a religious subtext to it and it may be no different this time, as was evident from Mr. Chacko's decision to move over to Chalakkudy. Both the UDF and LDF as also the BJP hope that the religious and community arithmetic, besides the political shifts and swings, will work to their advantage.