Kerala

Close race on the cards in Manjeswaram

With no major claims on the development front, Sabarimala issue dominates campaigning

Lack of socio-economic progress was expected to dominate the election campaign at the Manjeswaram Assembly constituency. However, as the campaign enters the final phase, major political fronts are drawn into the Sabarimala issue.

Both the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) witnessed a major scare in the 2016 Assembly election as the National Democratic Front (NDA) managed to increase its vote share. The BJP candidate lost by a small margin of 89 votes to the UDF candidate. The LDF was pushed to the third position.

Turning point

All three fronts expect a close finish. Initially, differences over choice of candidates had created a buzz. At the centre of the confusion was the question of the right candidate for the constituency which has a substantial number of voters from linguistic minorities.

However, the tone and tenor of the campaign changed following the statement made by the LDF candidate Shankar Rai on the Sabarimala issue, much to the surprise of the LDF camp. His disclosure that he had gone to Sabarimala temple several times, abiding by all rituals, and his defence of the entry of women in the temple gained attention during the campaign.

While many saw it as an opportunity to garner votes by the LDF, several others analysed it as a way to split the votes of the BJP to help the UDF recapture the seat.

For the political fronts, which have little to claim on the development front, the issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala became a topic of heated debate.

The last leg of the campaign saw top leaders of the political fronts landing in the constituency to fan the debate.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala called the LDF candidate a ‘pseudo Hindu’ and the BJP an opportunist party.

Congress leader A.K. Antony also questioned the stance of CPI(M) on Sabarimala. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, in reply, backed Mr. Rai stating that the party was never against the believers.

The BJP chipped in with its observation that the stance of the LDF and the UDF was meant to confuse and misguide the voters. Former CPI(M) MP and Congress MLA A.P. Abdullakutty, who recently joined the BJP, asked the voters to think about Sabarimala deity and caste their vote against the LDF.

Indications hint at a tight finish. Whether the margin will be as slender as in the 2016 election remains to be seen.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 7:59:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/close-race-on-the-cards-in-manjeswaram/article29728789.ece

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