Kerala Assembly elections 2021: Constituency Watch

Kerala Assembly Elections | ‘Deal’ allegation hangs over Chengannur electioneering

The battle for Chengannur has been touted as the one to watch out for.

As all the three major political fronts- Left Democratic Front (LDF), United Democratic Front (UDF) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA)- were readying for a pitched battle in Chengannur, known as the Gateway of Sabarimala, came an angry outburst.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue R. Balashankar who was denied a ticket, against the expectation, by the BJP to contest from the Assembly constituency and his subsequent allegations of a suspected tacit deal between the BJP State leadership and Communist Party of India (Marxist) {CPI (M)} has given a new dimension to the electoral battle there.

While the LDF candidate and sitting MLA Saji Cherian of the CPI (M) is seeking continuity, the UDF has fielded veteran Congress leader M. Murali to wrest the seat, which was once its stronghold. The NDA has given ticket to BJP Alappuzha district president M.V. Gopakumar.

The constituency, which had witnessed direct battles between the UDF and the LDF and often sided with the former, changed its dynamics in the 2016 Assembly poll when K.K.Ramachandran Nair of the CPI (M) emerged victorious.

That election saw the BJP vote share jumping exponentially to 42,682 from 6,062 votes in 2011. Two years later, the constituency stood with the LDF in the Assembly byelection necessitated following the death of Ramachandran Nair.

The BJP remained a force, finishing third, with its candidate garnering 35,270 votes.

Considered an ‘A’ class constituency, the BJP was expecting to further push the line and make it an intense triangular contest this time.

However, the suspicions raised by Balashankar are sure to create some impact on the poll prospects of the saffron party. “Lack of a strong BJP candidate” is also expected to change the poll arithmetic in the constituency where the road to victory lies in the consolidation of various religious and caste votes.

It is home to a large number of Nair, Ezhava and Christian voters. The Nairs and Christians with almost identical vote share form more than 50% of the total voters. The Ezhava and Scheduled Caste community votes come to around 35%.

Like happened in the bypoll, the LDF is hoping for the consolidation of Christian, Ezhava and Muslim votes in its favour along with a portion of the Nair votes.

But the LDF may find it hard to repeat the performance of byelection given its poor relationship with the Orthodox faction of the Malankara Church who makes the majority of the Christian voters in the constituency, over the dispute with the Jacobite faction. With Nair Service Society (NSS) too at odds with the LDF and BJP not fielding a strong candidate, the UDF expects to influence the Nair community along with eyeing Christian votes.

But Congress’s poor organisational structure especially at the grassroots level may prove costly. Although a section of the Orthodox faction seemed to be cosying up to the BJP especially to Mr. Balashankar after his intervention prevented the demolition of a centuries-old church at Cheppad, now which way they will vote is to be seen.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the UDF had gained upper hand in the Assembly segment. The LDF won the majority of the grama panchayats, while the BJP emerged top in two local bodies in the 2020 local body polls.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:14:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/kerala-assembly/deal-allegation-hangs-over-chengannur-electioneering/article34170800.ece

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