Long-standing concerns could prove decisive in Kasaragod

One of the most backward districts in Kerala has pressing issues such as the absence of a medical college and concerns regarding victims of pesticide Endosulfan. While incumbent MP, Rajmohan Unnithan of the Congress, hopes to extend his tenure, the LDF is going all out to wrest back the seat, for long its stronghold, through CPI(M) district secretary M.V. Balakrishnan. The BJP is fielding newcomer M.L. Ashwini

March 25, 2024 11:45 pm | Updated 11:52 pm IST - KASARAGOD



The electoral landscape of Kasaragod is once again set for a high-stakes battle with incumbent MP Rajmohan Unnithan of the Congress seeking re-election from the Lok Sabha constituency.

In the 2019 parliamentary elections, Mr. Unnithan made inroads into the district’s traditionally Left-leaning electorate, defeating his nearest rival, K.P. Satheesh Chandran of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI-M], by a margin of over 40,000 votes. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contender Ravisha Tantri Kuntar came a distant third.

Mr. Unnithan’s win also signalled a momentous shift in the constituency’s political dynamics as only the CPI(M) candidates had been winning from here since 1989. A.K. Gopalan, a founding member of the CPI(M), had represented Kasaragod thrice from 1957 to 1967. Candidates of the Congress have represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha only thrice — in 1971, 1984 and in 2019.

Now, the CPI(M) is banking on district secretary M.V. Balakrishnan to wrest the seat from Mr. Unnithan, while the BJP is pinning its hopes on newcomer M.L. Ashwini, a national executive member of Bharatiya Janata Mahila Morcha, and Manjeswaram block panchayat member. Both are first time contestants in Lok Sabha polls.

Scene in 2019

Many factors contributed to Mr. Unnithan romping home last time, including the widely touted possibility of a Congress win at the Centre and its president Rahul Gandhi emerging as the Prime Minister. Also, the support lent by the LDF government to the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to offer prayers at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple alienated a segment of the electorate. The killing of two Youth Congress activists, Kripesh and Sharath Lal, by CPI(M) activists in Kasaragod in February 2019, too worked against the party at the hustings.

Assembly segments

Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency comprises seven Assembly segments: Manjeswaram, Kasaragod, Uduma, Kanhangad and Thrikkarippur in Kasaragod district, and two segments, Payyannur and Kalliassery in Kannur district. In the 2019 polls, Mr. Unnithan secured huge leads in Manjeswaram and Kasaragod and a moderate lead in Uduma. But he could only finish second in the remaining four other segments. The BJP candidate came second in Manjeswaram and Kasaragod.

A similar pattern was almost repeated subsequently in the 2021 Assembly polls with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF)’s ally, the Indian Union Muslim League, winning the two segments, Manjeswaram and Kasaragod, and the BJP coming second in them. However, Uduma Assembly segment sprang a surprise with the CPI(M) bagging 13,000-odd votes more than the Congress. Overall, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) garnered more than a lakh votes than the UDF, combining all the seven Assembly segments.

Nevertheless, the upcoming election is likely to witness a three-way battle. The constituency’s demographic composition is predominantly Hindu, with a significant Muslim population, particularly in Manjeswaram and Kasaragod Assembly segments. The electorate consists of farmers, rubber growers, cashew planters, paddy cultivators, business class, and non-resident Indians.

Crucial issues

With a month remaining for the elections, key issues such as development, infrastructure, and social welfare dominate the electoral discourse. Despite efforts in tourism and development, Kasaragod remains one of Kerala’s most backward districts, with pressing issues such as the absence of a medical college and concerns regarding Endosulfan victims. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the influence of social activist Daya Bai are expected to sway election outcomes.

Kasaragod has a total electorate of 10,51,111, including 5,37,525 women and 5,13,579 men, and seven transgender voters.

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