No front can take Alappuzha constituency for granted

Though Alappuzha is known as the cradle of the Communist movement in Kerala, it has elected Congress candidates eight times in the last 12 elections since 1977. In the 2019 polls, it was the CPI(M)‘s saving grace amid the ruins all around. Now, Congress is staking its claim with a heavyweight in the form of K.C. Venugopal, the AICC general secretary. The NDA will look to raise its vote share through Shobha Surendran

Updated - March 31, 2024 11:57 pm IST

Published - March 31, 2024 11:51 pm IST - ALAPPUZHA

For the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala, the Alappuzha Lok Sabha constituency turned out to be a face-saver as it slumped to a humiliating rout in the 2019 general election, losing 19 out of the 20 seats in the State.

Five years on, while the LDF is aiming to retain the seat through incumbent A.M. Ariff, MP, of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], the Congress party’s decision to field a heavyweight in the form of All India Congress Committee general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal, MP, as the UDF candidate from Alappuzha has given an altogether new dimension to the contest and put the parliamentary segment in the national limelight. The NDA roping in firebrand BJP leader Shobha Surendran makes the fight even more interesting.

Seven Assembly segments

The constituency with a long coastline covers seven Assembly segments — Aroor, Cherthala, Alappuzha, Ambalappuzha, Haripad, and Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district and Karunagappally in Kollam. In 2019, Mr. Ariff who polled 4,45,970 votes defeated his nearest rival Shanimol Usman of the Congress by a margin of 10,474 votes. The CPI(M) candidate had polled 40.91% of the total votes cast.

As Mr. Ariff seeks re-election, no one in the LDF expects it to be a cakewalk. Despite Alappuzha being known as a citadel and cradle of the Communist movement, it has elected Congress candidates eight times in the last 12 elections since 1977. However, the LDF has reasons to believe in pulling off a victory. For one, the few times the CPI(M) emerged victorious from the seat, it did it by defeating Congress heavyweights like Vakkom Purushothaman and V.M. Sudheeran in the 1991 and 2004 elections respectively.

‘The political wisdom’

The UDF thinks that the candidature of Mr. Venugopal, who represented Alappuzha in the Lower House twice from 2009 to 2019, will help it wrest the seat. The Congress leader is a Rajya Sabha member from Rajasthan with a tenure of more than two years. The LDF has questioned the political wisdom of Mr. Venugopal contesting against a sitting CPI(M) MP at a time when he as a top leader of both the Congress party and the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc is supposed to bring together Opposition parties in the fight against the ruling NDA. The Congress justifies his candidature by saying the party wants to win maximum seats in the polls.

The NDA, which secured 1,87,729 votes in 2019, is eyeing to increase its vote share. Ms. Surendran, a seasoned politician who took part in some high-profile electoral battles over the years, is expected to give both the LDF and UDF a run for their money in the upcoming polls.

Issues to the fore

While development is the major poll plank, other factors including mineral sand-mining at Thottappally, sea erosion, issues plaguing the fisher community, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act will be crucial in deciding the outcome. The constituency is home to a sizeable Ezhava population. Besides, Christian and Muslim voters are decisive factors in some areas.

In 2019, the UDF secured leads in five of the seven Assembly segments. However, a lead of 16,895 votes in Cherthala and 4,297 votes in Kayamkulam segments for the LDF candidate proved decisive. In the 2021 Assembly polls, the LDF bagged five constituencies.

There are 13,69,883 electorate in Alappuzha, including 7,10,292 females, 6,59,582 males, and nine transgenders.

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