Region: Central Kerala Kerala

New socio-religious churn reshapes political contours

The Catholic Church’s unprecedented censure of interfaith marriage with Muslims, the riotous quarrel between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Church, the crossing over of the Kerala Congress (M) faction led by Jose K. Mani to the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the turbulences within the Congress and the absence of top Left leaders in the poll fray have all turned the fight for central Kerala into an unpredictable, fascinating and critical one.

The region comprising Kottayam, Alappuzha, Idukki, Ernakulam and Thrissur has 50 Assembly segments, of which 31 are held by the LDF. It had done well in Alappuzha and Thrissur districts in the 2016 Assembly polls, while the United Democratic Front (UDF) made hay in Kottayam. The LDF retained Chengannur but lost Aroor in the subsequent bypoll.

The socio-political churn in the last five years, however, has altered the affinities capable of redrawing the political contours of the region straddling the high ranges and the coast.

BJP influence

The BJP wields influence in some pockets and has been able to increase its vote share. It tried to leverage the ‘love jihad’ bogey raised by the Church and held meetings with Church groupings hoping to create a goodwill for electoral returns. But the recent attack on Sacred Heart nuns in Uttar Pradesh seems to have arrested its advance.

Perhaps, one of the most interesting fights in the region is unfolding in Thrissur, where the LDF had secured 12 of the 13 seats in 2016. Having won Wadakkancherry by the State’s lowest margin of 43 seats then, Congress leader Anil Akkara is trying to cash in on the controversy surrounding the LIFE Mission project. But the LDF has an equally dynamic candidate in Xavier Chittilappilly, whose name had come up in the 2016 elections too.

While a three-cornered fight is expected in Thrissur, with the LDF holding an edge, the absence of a BJP candidate has made the election to Guruvayur worth a watch. This is where the LDF is accusing the BJP of having a tacit pact with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

In Ernakulam, where the UDF secured nine of the 14 seats last time, the Anna Kitex-sponsored Twenty20 has muddied the battle for Kunnathunad, while it is expected to play a spoiler at Muvattupuzha in the same way the V4Kochi is set to do in the coastal Kochi seat.

Jacobites’ stance

The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church decision to maintain an equal distance with all fronts though it “remembers with gratitude” the Ordinance passed by the State government to restore their burial in churches forfeited to the Orthodox faction could mean the laity would vote for candidates from the community regardless of their political affiliation.

With no LDF heavyweights in the fray, Alappuzha is witnessing a close fight in all segments, other than Mavelikara and Haripad. How the electorate will respond to the controversy related to deep-sea fishing will swing the verdict in the coastal constituencies, while Orthodox votes may prove critical in Chengannur.

In Kottayam, a UDF stronghold, the LDF harbours high hopes with the support of the KC(M). The increase in support price of rubber has been received well in the plantation belt. The toughest fight is in Pala where former LDF ally Mani C. Kappan is flaunting the work done by the LDF government as he takes on KC(M) leader Jose K. Mani. Poonjar, from where maverick Independent legislator P.C. George is seeking the mandate again, is in focus for the apparent consolidation of Muslim votes against him.

In Idukki, the fight is evenly poised.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 6:19:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/kerala-assembly/new-socio-religious-churn-reshapes-political-contours/article34234767.ece

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