Development issues take centre stage

A tough battle is on in the Kovalam Assembly constituency, where George Mercier, sitting MLA, of the Congress is pitted against Jameela Prakasam of the Janata Dal (Secular).

Ms. Prakasam is the wife of the former Minister and JD(S) leader A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar and daughter of the former MLA and Communist leader R. Prakasam.

Delimitation has given a new profile to the constituency, which includes the famed beach destination, hundreds of hotels, restaurants and resorts spread over the Kovalam-Chowara-Poovar belt, the Balaramapuram handloom village and Vizhinjam, which has hit the headlines on account of the proposed port and container-terminal projects.

Five divisions of the erstwhile Vizhinjam panchayat that was merged with the City Corporation and Balaramapuram, Kaliyoor, Kottukal, Kanjiramkulam, Karumkulam, Venganoor and Poovar panchayats make up the constituency.

Along with the Vizhinjam project, issues such as drinking water scarcity in the coastal areas and development of roads are the key issues of the campaign, which is entering the second phase.

Mr. Mercier is seeking another term by projecting the development works initiated by him despite being an Opposition MLA.

The good rapport he has with the people is expected to come in handy in the keenly watched contest. He says development works estimated at Rs.165 crore had been implemented in the constituency during his term. At least one work was taken up in each of the 127 local body wards. He also speaks of a drinking water project that cost Rs.2.1 crore and development of 42 km of road to National Highway standards.

Ms. Prakasham is trying to wrest the seat from Mr. Mercier for the Left Democratic Front (LDF). She has entered the fray after resigning from the post of Deputy General Manager of the State Bank of Travancore, when she had over seven years of service left.

She is banking on various social service initiatives that she had led in various areas while working in the bank. She is hopeful that the development initiatives taken up by Mr. Nadar as the MLA during terms starting in 1977, 1987, 1996 and 2001 would be of advantage to her.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Venganoor Satheesh and had activated the election machinery much in advance than the two fronts. A member of the Venganoor panchayat for the past three terms, Mr. Satheesh prefers to see it as a triangular contest and hopes that the electorate will give an opportunity to the party this time.

In the 2006 Assembly elections, when George Mercier wrested the seat from the LDF, none of the panchayats had been with the United Democratic Front (UDF). In the 2010 local body elections, the UDF came victorious by bagging four of the five Corporation wards and five panchayats that fall in the constituency.

Mr. Nadar, who contested as an Independent last time after the LDF denied him the ticket, had bagged 26.27 per cent of the votes polled to emerge in the second spot.

It is to be seen whether Mr. Mercier will be able to win yet again or Ms. Praksham will wrest the seat from him.