Kerala Assembly elections 2021: Constituency Watch

IT land hosts a fierce fight

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finally ending the suspense over its candidate in Kazhakuttam, the battle lines are clear in the State Assembly constituency best known as the home of IT hub Technopark.

The LDF candidate, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, and his UDF rival, the public health expert S. S. Lal, are several days into their campaigns. Sobha Surendran, whose candidature was declared by the BJP on March 17, is a late entrant on the scene. Nonetheless, Ms. Surendran’s presence adds intriguing dimensions to the fight for the constituency where the BJP had stood second in 2016.

Mr. Surendran is seeking a second consecutive term from Kazhakuttam, having won in 2016 by over 7,300 votes. The Congress’s choice of Mr. Lal did not sit well with a section in the party, but the leadership calculates that his record as an globally known public health expert would carry the day for the front.

The BJP draws confidence from the 2016 verdict when V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, had finished second behind Mr. Surendran. That year, Congress’s M. A. Vahid, who had won in 2001, 2006 and 2011, was pushed to third spot.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s O. Rajagopal had led in the Kazhakuttam Assembly segment. Kazhakuttam favoured Shashi Tharoor of the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But senior BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan had finished a close second while the LDF’s C. Divakaran trailed third.

A fast-evolving satellite township of the State capital, the Kazhakuttam segment boasts 18 wards of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. Its growth as one of India’s largest IT hubs, employing approximately 65,000 people, has also influenced the political dynamics of the region.

First in 1965

The constituency first saw electoral battle in 1965, when N. Lakshmanan of the Congress defeated K.P. Alikunju of the CPI(M). It was from Kazhakuttam that A.K. Antony successfully fought the by-election in October 1977. Thalekkunnil Basheer had stepped down as MLA so that Mr. Antony, the Congress’s choice of Chief Minister after K. Karunakaran resigned, could contest.

In the 1987 Assembly polls, Kazhakuttam elected Nabeesa Ummal, the Left-backed Independent, as its representative.

In the 1991 elections, it was Communist Marxist Party (CMP) leader M.V. Raghavan’s turn to represent the constituency.

Hat-trick for Vahid

Mr. Surendran regained the seat for the LDF in 1996. M.A. Vahid won the next three elections. In 2001, he won as a UDF ‘rebel,’ defeating Bindu Ummar of the CPI(M). Mr. Vahid repeated the feat as the official Congress candidate in 2006 and 2011. The constituency fell once again to the LDF in 2016, with Mr. Surendran scripting victory.

This summer, the LDF has a tough fight on its hands with the BJP planning to go that extra mile. The Sabarimala issue is sure to find top billing in the campaigns, especially since Mr. Surendran also holds the Devaswom portfolio. His recent remark that the incident had saddened everyone had drawn flak from both the UDF and the BJP. The UDF too hopes to catch the other two fronts off-guard by springing a few surprises of its own.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 8:53:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/kerala-assembly/it-land-hosts-a-fierce-fight/article34125940.ece

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