Left, Right and Centre battle it out in Thiruvananthapuram

With the rise of strong triangular competition in many constituencies, the outcome is unpredictable, reports Aravind Rajeev.

With hardly two weeks left, the electioneering is in full pace as ninety-nine candidates are in the fray for the 14 Assembly constituencies in Thiruvananthapuram district.

With the rise of strong triangular competition in many constituencies, the outcome is unpredictable with many candidates who secured victory now face stiff competition.

Two of the 14 assembly constituencies — Nemom and Kazhakoottam — turned to be the focal points in the election which is scheduled to be held on April 6.

Nemom, the lone sitting seat of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, is one of the most-watched constituencies in Kerala with an unpredictable triangular contest.

BJP is going with former Mizoram governor and senior leader Kummanam Rajasekharan, who had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Thiruvanathapuram.

In the 2016 Assembly polls, Nemom rode into national headlines, when the BJP opened its account in the Kerala Assembly when its star candidate — former Union Minister O. Rajagopal defeated CPI(M) leader V. Sivankutty and left the Congress-led UDF candidate, a former state Minister V. Surendran Pillai of the then Janata Dal (U), a poor third.

But now, winning will be not that easy for BJP since the Congress has fielded its all-time ‘failsafe’ – K. Muraleedharan, son of late leader K. Karunakaran and sitting Member of Parliament from Vatakara constituency.

Congress decision to field Mureleedharan came after a huge drama with names of opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy flooded the news channels, social media, and also in the official political speeches as proposed candidates.

The CPI(M) has put up V Sivankutty, who won from Nemom in 2011. However, it will be the most keenly fought triangular contest in the state.

The highest number of 11 candidates are contesting in the Nemom Assembly constituency followed by 10 candidates each in Thiruvananthapuram and Vamanapuram.

With the arrival of BJP leader Sobha Surendran as the candidate in Kazhakkuttam, the electoral predictions in the constituency have completely changed. A tough triangular contest is expected in the constituency, where, last time, the BJP finished in second place.

As expected, Surendran has played the BJP trump card — the controversy surrounding women’s entry in Sabarimala — to woo Hindu voters largely. She is pitted against the LDF’s Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who is now at the receiving end of criticisms related to Sabarimala.

Speaking to the media, Surendran said that the Sabarimala issue remained an emotive one and will have a major impact on the elections. However, Kadakampally is blocking this by highlighting the developments made in the constituency.

While on the other hand, Congress’ surprise pick of Dr S.S. Lal may change the polls results its course on UDF favour. Dr Lal is also the state president of All India Professional Congress.

Unlike the previous election, the sitting MLAs in the district, seem to have fears about the outcome of the results as the newcomers almost succeeded in the first place to create the impression that there is strong competition in many constituencies.

In the constituencies including Vamanapuram, Parassala, Kattakada, Neyyattinkara, Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, Aruvikkara, Chirayinkeezhu, Varkala and Vattiyoorkavu, the ground has been set for close battles.

Most of the new faces have close relationship with the constituencies they are contesting. UDF candidates Ansajitha Russell of Parassala, Anand Jayan from Vamanapuram, and Venugopal from Malayinkeezhu in Kattakada, were members of District Panchayats.

LDF candidate OS Ambika is the Block Panchayat President in Attingal and Janadhipathya Kerala Congress candidate for Thiruvananthapuram Antony Raju and Janata Dal (Secular) candidate for Kovalam A. Neelalohitadasan Nadar are former state legislators.

In Nedumangad, candidates PS Prashanth of the UDF and GR Anil of the Communist Party of India (CPI) have got personal connections in the constituency, which they try to turn into votes.

Same is the case in Neyyattinkara. Congress candidate R. Selvaraj is a former MLA from Neyyattinkara. LDF candidates G. Stephen of Aruvikara was CPI-M’s Area Secretary.

Increase of 50k voters

According to the latest voters list released by the Election Commission last week, the number of voters in the district has increased by more than 50,000.

The list, which was published on January 20 last year, had 27,69,272 voters. This year, the number has been increased to 28,19,710 with 50,438 additional voters.

Of these, 13,40,691 are male electors, 14,78,958 female electors and 61 are transgender voters. Transgender voters figure on the list in all constituencies except Varkala and Parassala. With 61 transgender voters, Thiruvananthapuram is also the district with the highest number of voters in this category.

The highest number of voters is in Parasala constituency – 2.19 lakh and the lowest is in the nearest constituency, Neyyattinkara – 1,86,705.

Also Read-Former CM Chandy in Congress’ Kerala list

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