Ranging from the deep-sea fishing row to the delay in realising the Vizhinjam seaport and from the plight of the handloom weavers of Balaramapuram to the shortage of potable water along the coastal belt, a whole gamut of issues have come to the fore in the Kovalam Assembly constituency where electioneering has neared a finish.
The segment, which is known for its unpredictable swings from one coalition to the other, has been witnessing a fierce contest. United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate and incumbent MLA M. Vincent, who snatched victory from Jameela Prakasam of the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] by 2,615 votes five years ago, is confident of repeating his performance after completing three rounds of campaigning.
Engaged in last-leg campaign in Kanjiramkulam on Thursday, the Congress leader says he has been able to brave an indifferent stance by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government to implement 635 projects across the constituency. “The government only granted sanction for 15 of the 169 major project proposals submitted during the past five years. This reflected its disregard towards the fishing community as well as the handloom industry,” he says.
Mr. Vincent, who was in the forefront of the recent ‘Theeradesha Samrakshna Yatra’ (coastal protection march)’, has adopted the raging controversy over the deep-sea fishing project as a political weapon. He accused the LDF of failing to clear 1,500 pending applications for title deeds in the constituency.
LDF candidate A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who took a brief break from campaigning after concluding a week-long constituency tour late Wednesday, says the government enjoyed public confidence having succeeded in fulfilling all of its promises, including those made to the families of the Cyclone Ockhi victims.
Dismissing the controversy surrounding the deep-sea fishing agreement as ‘paid news’, the veteran Janata Dal (S) leader claimed such diversionary tactics will turn futile. The 73-year-old candidate, who has represented the region five times, also felt his personal bond with the electorate will enable him to address several complex problems faced by the region’s working class, including fish workers, handloom weavers, farmers and, to a small extent, coir workers.
NDA’s trump card
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which has seen an increase in its vote share over the years, viewed its decision to field Kerala Kamaraj Congress leader Vishnupuram Chandrasekharan as a game changer. The coalition is betting on the Vaikunda Swamy Dharma Pracharana Sabha (VSDP) leader to garner a majority of the Nadar votes which, along with those of Latin Christian and Ezhava communities, could prove crucial in determining the outcome here.
“The constituency has suffered under the UDF and the LDF legislators for decades. Several parts of Uchakkada continue to reel under severe drinking water crisis. The traditional fishermen of Mulloor and other parts have suffered by way of the Vizhinjam seaport project. The famed handloom industry is also in the doldrums. Moreover, the tourism industry in Kovalam has been lying stagnant for several years now. The region is in dire need of Central assistance,” Mr. Chandrasekharan says on the sidelines of a meeting at Vellar.