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Kerala - Kochi Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Frequent swing makes outcome unpredictable

K.P.M. Basheer

Many seats untouched in delimitation exercise


KOCHI: With 14 constituencies that stretch from the Arabian Sea to the Western Ghats, Ernakulam district holds one-tenth of the total seats in the Assembly. But the political significance of this economically most significant district in the State goes much beyond that 10 per cent.

Ernakulam is the centre of gravity of the central Kerala region's political life and it shows the way to the political mind of Kerala.

Business, agriculture and the church colour the political persona of the district. Until recently, political pundits viewed Ernakulam as a right-of-centre district.

The LDF gave them a rude shock by securing 10 of the 14 Assembly seats in 2006. Then there was the talk of the district turning left. That was not to be.

The 2009 parliamentary election and the 2010 panchayat elections went decisively the UDF way. The tell-tale victory of the UDF in the election to the Kochi Corporation, which had been in the LDF's kitty for three decades, was reckoned as the road sign to an overwhelming UDF win in the 2011 Assembly elections.

But, as the New Year dawned, the post-panchayat election euphoria in the UDF camp started waning. The revival of the ‘SmartCity dream' with a negotiated settlement of the stand-off between the LDF government and the SmartCity promoters started the end of the euphoria.

It was kind of a coup for the LDF when the UDF had least expected it. Then there was a series of setbacks for UDF leaders such as R. Balakrishna Pillai and P.K. Kunhalikkutty, which gave a moral dent to the UDF image.

Revival of LDF hope

Sensing the revival of its prospects, the LDF went on an aggressive image-building exercise. It focussed on the ‘good work' its government had done in the district by highlighting the developmental and infrastructure projects, road building, SmartCity, Vyttila Mobility Hub, full electrification of the district and a host of others.

In the meantime, the remarkable rise in the prices of rubber, pepper and cardamom had buoyed the spirit of farmers in the eastern region of the district.

All these, happening in quick succession just ahead of the election notification, helped the LDF image. Added to these is the fact the LDF had a smooth sail allocating seats among the partners.

The CPI(M) decided to field its own candidates in nine constituencies (Aluva, Perumbavoor, Kalamassery, Kunnathunad, Kochi, Vypeen, Thripunithura, Thrikkakara and Piravom) and a CPI(M) independent in Ernakulam. The CPI was allotted Muvattupuzha and Paravur, while the Janata Dal (Secular) was given Angamaly and the Kerala Congress (P.C. Thomas) Kothamangalam.

The front also quickly made an impressive line-up of candidates in the district, though the names have not yet been formally announced.

In contrast to this, the UDF scene in the district is hazy. The seat-sharing talks are still on, and there are scores of leaders within the Congress aspiring to stand in the elections.

With the polling day just four weeks away, no UDF party knows for sure who will contest which seat. The uncertainty and the delay, Congress leaders in the district fear, might compromise the short-duration campaign.

They are also afraid that the UDF, which just a couple of months before had such a huge political capital to start with, might fritter it away.

Restructuring

The delimitation exercise left the number of constituencies in the district untouched at 14, but brought in two new constituencies (Thrikkakara and Kalamassery), renamed two (Mattancherry and Njarackal) and struck off two others (Vadakkekara and Palluruthy).

Kochi and Vypeen are reincarnations of the former Mattancherry and Njarackal constituencies respectively, with certain additions and deletions.

Mattancherry used to be the tiniest Assembly constituency in Kerala. When it became Kochi, it took with it the Chellanam and Kumbalangi panchayats of former Palluruthy.

When Njarackal became Vypeen, it was clubbed with Mulavukadu panchayat. As Vadakkekara disappeared after the delimitation, Chittattukara, Vadakkekara and Puthanvelikkara panchayats joined Paravur.

To form the Kalamassery constituency, Alangad and Karumaloor had to be delinked from Paravur; sections of Aluva and Vadakkekara constituencies also were added to Kalamassery. The Thrikkakara constituency was carved out of sections of Thripunithura and Ernakulam constituencies.

The delimitation is unlikely to alter the overall electoral outcome of the district. In terms of geographical area, Kothamangalam is the largest constituency. Kunnathunadu is the only reserved seat in the district. Across the 14 constituencies, there are 21.72 lakh voters in the district, of whom 10.93 lakh are women.

Church factor

The Christian church is an important factor in the political life of the district. It has always influenced the decisions of the political parties as well as voters.

Running myriad institutions like schools, colleges, hospitals and businesses, the church also wields great ‘soft power' on the decisions of not just Christians, but other communities also.

Kochi serves as the headquarters of two leading Catholic churches - Syro-Malabar and Latin Catholic. There are large Latin Catholic populations in Ernakulam, Vypeen and Kochi constituencies, while Jacobites are strong in Kunnathunad, Perumbavoor, Muvattupuzha, Piravom and Kothamangalam.

The Syrian Catholics have say in deciding who will be the Angamaly MLA. Aluva, Thrikkakara, Kalamassery and Muvattupuzha have substantial number of Muslim voters. The impact of the merger of the Kerala Congress (J) with the Kerala Congress (M) will be most keenly felt in Kothamangalam, where the KC(J) candidate T.U. Kuruvilla had won in 2006 as part of the LDF.

Now the KC(J) is with the UDF. If the UDF candidate in Kothamangalam is a KC(M) nominee, he or she will have to confront a nominee of the Kerala Congress (P.C. Thomas), which until a few years back, had been part of the KC(M).

The Assembly election in Ernakulam district boils down to this: how many seats will the UDF be able to regain from the LDF? The answer will be part of another question - will the UDF come back to power in the State?

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