Kerala Assembly elections 2021: Constituency Watch

It’s Mani legacy vs Mani namesake in Pala

The last time Pala went to the polls two years ago, the Kerala Congress (M) led by Jose K. Mani had bet heavily on a runaway victory that would help maintain its predominance in Central Travancore.

The Assembly segment, represented by the KC(M) continuously for 54 years till 2019, was widely regarded as its citadel. But that was only until K.M. Mani, its founder leader, contested from the seat.

In the byelection that followed Mani’s death, Mani C. Kappan, Left Democratic Front candidate, pulled off an improbable victory and, in doing so, shook the KC(M)’s supremacy over the rubber heartland.

Upset victory

The upset victory notwithstanding, a reshuffle of the State’s long-standing coalition equations followed. Despite the setback, Mr. Jose K. Mani still maintained his grip on the party and oversaw a transition of the KC(M) to the Left coalition. Mr. Kappan, in return, joined the rival coalition and floated a new outfit on his own – the Nationalist Congress Kerala.

Now with the State on the threshold of another election, Pala is in for a direct fight between Mr. Mani and Mr. Kappan. The rivalry is so intense that even their family members are on the street reaching out to every voter in person.

Mr. Kappan had cashed in on the infighting in the KC(M) to win the bypoll two years ago. Since then, he had kept his stake for the seat alive through systematic work. Mr. Mani joined the battle call in January when he resigned from the Rajya Sabha.

Kappan’s performance

The performance of Mr. Kappan over the last 16 months as a legislator with the support of the Left Democrtic Front government now serves the Congress-led United Democratic Front’s purposes. Adding to the sitting MLA’s confidence is the UDF machinery which has now lined up behind him.

The CPI(M)-led LDF camp, however, is confident. It has worked out a coordinated action plan as both the KC(M) and the CPI(M) command a significant booth-level presence across the segment.

Strict directives have been issued to the lower rungs of the coalition to maintain the momentum gained during the local body elections and ensure Mr. Mani’s victory.

“The local body election results have shown that Mr. Mani can make a comeback despite temporary setbacks. But several of the panchayats in the Assembly segment still favour the UDF. And if P.C. Thomas, another Kerala Congress veteran, joins the race as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance candidate, Pala is in for a high-stake battle,” observed a veteran leader.

Some of the key factors that may decide the candidates’ fortune include the undecided voters, who may have voted for the ruling front in the previous election, the stance of the Catholic Church, and the perceived crisis in the natural rubber sector.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 8:12:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/kerala-assembly/its-mani-legacy-vs-mani-in-high-stake-battle/article34046760.ece

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