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Fresh faces make prediction impossible

By K.P. Pushparaj


KASARAGOD, MAY 1. With the elections hardly a week ahead, trends from the northernmost Lok Sabha constituency of the State indicate that there is no perceptible wave here. By all indications, it seems that the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) are engaged in a neck-and-neck race.

Of the seven Assembly segments in the Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency, the LDF represents five and the UDF two. While the LDF nominees represent the constituencies of Taliparamba, Payyannur, Thirkkarippur, Uduma and Hosdrug, the UDF nominees represent the Manjeswar and Kasaragod segments.

As far as the Kasaragod Lok Sabha seat is concerned, the electorate of the constituency has been consistently sending LDF candidates to Parliament for the last 15 years — since the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. Since the formation of the Kasaragod constituency, the LDF has emerged victorious nine times while the UDF could make it only three times. It was the Marxist veteran, the late A.K. Gopalan, who won the seat in 1957, 1962 and 1967 followed by M. Ramanna Rai in 1980, 1989 and 1991. The UDF won the seat in 1971, 1977 and in 1984. T. Govindan of the CPI(M) repeated a hat-trick performance as his predecessors by winning the seat in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

Though there are 10 candidates for the May 10 elections, the main contestants are P. Karunakaran (LDF), N.A. Muhammed (UDF) and V. Balakrishna Shetty (BJP).

Despite being a traditional LDF stronghold, the entry of fresh faces makes any prediction impossible here. And the fact that the victory margin of the LDF has been shrinking over the years should be a cause of worry for the LDF, which is, all the same, confident of victory this time as well. Coupled with this is the fall in the number of voters in the constituency by 33,357. The fall in the number of voters in the LDF-strongholds of Payyannur and Taliparamba is not a positive signal for the LDF.

Though the Navodhana Yatra led by the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, has invigorated the UDF cadres, something is still missing in their campaigning. However, the withdrawal of suspension of the former DCC president, Kodoth Govindan Nair, has been a shot in the UDF arm. The apparent unity and discipline among the Congress leadership and cadre is giving the UDF campaign managers a breathing space.

The UDF candidate's ability to make inroads into the Indian National League (INL) vote share would be an added advantage to the UDF candidate. A section of the INL has declared support to the UDF candidate. The INL has been backing the LDF so far. They also highlight the inability of the former MP, T. Govindan, to launch development projects and improve the infrastructure, the railway facilities in particular, in his thrice-represented constituency.

But the presence of an Independent with a similar name and apparently a matching election symbol (M.A. Muhammed - shuttle cock) is giving anxious moments to the Congress nominee.

Though well-defended by the CPI(M) leaders, there a few takers for the BJP campaign that the LDF is responsible for delisting the 30,000-strong Marati community from the Scheduled Tribes list. But the LDF feels that it would be pretty placed in the Kannada belt with the entry of the former district panchayat president and IUML leader, C. Ahmed Kunhi, into the CPI(M). Moreover, the personality of the LDF nominee, being a staunch CPI(M) man and son-in-law of the legendary A.K.Gopalan, would stand the LDF in good stead.

The number of voters in the constituency, spread over Kasaragod district and the northern part of Kannur district, has been revised.

To sum up, the perceptive change in the LDF campaigning indicates that it is not ready to take the contest lightly. On the other hand, it is a do-or-die battle for the UDF. And the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to prove its strength in the constituency.

Kannur

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