A test of popularity between two MPs in Kozhikode

The last time the CPI(M) won in the Kozhikode Lok Sabha seat was in 1980. This time, the party is fielding veteran leader and Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem in a bid to unseat three-time Congress MP M.K. Raghavan. The BJP has nominated its State general secretary M.T. Ramesh

Published - March 31, 2024 12:14 am IST - Kozhikode

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In the lead-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when the Congress leadership was scouting for a candidate for the Kozhikode seat, senior leader A.K. Antony, then Union Minister for Defence, backed M.K. Raghavan, then Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Kozhikode, to reclaim the constituency, once a stronghold of the party.

The Congress was then concerned about the potential loss of influence in the constituency as the polls were being held after delimitation. Two Assembly segments, Beypore and Kunnamangalam, perceived to be Left bastions, were amalgamated to it, while Thiruvambadi in Kozhikode district, Kalpetta, and Sulthan Bathery were severed to carve out the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency.

Surprisingly, Mr. Raghavan emerged victorious by 838 votes, defeating P.A. Mohamed Riyas in a direct fight between the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]. The rest is history. In the 2014 polls, Mr. Raghavan fortified his mandate with a margin exceeding 16,000 votes against the CPI(M)‘s A. Vijayaraghavan. In 2019, he scored a hat-trick, securing a bigger margin of over 85,000 votes against popular CPI(M) legislator A. Pradeepkumar.

As Mr. Raghavan sets his sights on a fourth consecutive term, a battle-determined CPI(M) has rallied behind its Rajya Sabha MP and former Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem to wrest control of Kozhikode. Mr. Kareem was a three-time legislator, twice from Beypore and once from erstwhile Kozhikode-II, now Kozhikode South, segments. As the State general secretary of CITU, Mr. Kareem has good rapport with trade union leaders across Kozhikode ‘s political spectrum and influential business houses. During his tenure in V.S.Achuthanandan Ministry from 2006-11, he had ensured that industries in Kozhikode like the Kerala Soaps and Oils, the Thiruvannur Cotton Mill and the Steel Complex Limited (now SAIL-SCL Kerala Limited) which were under the threat of closure did not shut down.

The last CPI(M) victory in the constituency dates back to 1980, when E.K. Imbichi Bava defeated Arangil Sreedharan of the Janata Party. Congress leader K. Muraleedharan and the late socialist leader M.P. Veerendra Kumar had represented the constituency twice.

BJP nominee

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nominated its State general secretary M.T. Ramesh, setting in motion a three-cornered contest. He is no stranger to the constituency, having contested in the 2004 polls.

The candidature of former All India Congress Committee president Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad, coupled with Left parties’ endorsement of the Supreme Court’s decision to permit women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple, and Mr. Raghavan’s accessible public persona, were instrumental in his success in 2019. Besides, a pre-election sting operation by a Hindi news channel, purportedly showing Mr. Raghavan soliciting kickbacks for a proposed land deal, swayed sentiments in his favour.

He secured leads in all seven Assembly segments, especially a significant margin of over 35,000 votes in Koduvally. However, in the 2021 Assembly polls, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front swept all seats — Balussery, Elathur, Kozhikode North, Kozhikode South, Beypore, and Kunnamangalam — except Koduvally.

Main issues

The delay in setting up the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and the proposed Uniform Civil Code reverberate the campaign scene.

As on January 2024, the Kozhikode Lok Sabha constituency has 14,00,113 voters of whom 6,77,512 are males, 7,22,575 are females and 26 transgender voters.

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