In football-crazy Kannur, beaming election candidates share cramped junction spaces with iconic Latin American footballers. The April 10 Lok Sabha election in this old Red bastion, however, is set to be a direct face-off between personalities and ideologies.
Kannur is one of the two constituencies in Kerala—apart from Kollam—where CPM stalwart M A Baby locks horns with former ally Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) candidate N K Premachandran, in a clash of almost equals. In Kannur, Congress sitting MP K Sudhakaran is the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate, pitted CPM leader and former health minister P K Sreemathy.
The opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) has fielded 64-year-old Sreemathy in a bid to recapture Kannur, a constituency with a history of Left-affiliated labour movements.
“There are issues both at the local and national levels that the two fronts are discussing but this time in Kannur, it’s going to be a straight contest between two prominent leaders. As an MP, Sudhakaran has been an average performer but it’s going to be an even contest considering his clout as a popular leader,” says Chandran R, a cab driver from Mattannur near here.
The Kannur Lok Sabha constituency covers the seven Assembly constituencies of Taliparamba, Irikkur, Azhikode, Kannur, Dharmadam, Mattannur and Peravoor.
Sudhakaran, a prominent leader of the Congress-I faction, has been a lone ranger in Left-leaning Kannur. His thumping victory against CPM’s K K Ragesh in 2009 had tilted power equations in Kannur and the ensuing contest, on expected lines, is being dubbed a prestigious clash. The BJP, grappling with dissent in local units, has fielded P C Mohanan.
Congress leadership, while claiming that Sreemathy’s challenge is limited against the 65-year-old Sudhakaran, a leader with national standing and strong cadre backing, mounts the campaign against the CPM’s “politics of animosity”.
On Saturday, the CPM backed a takeover of the local office of the Communist Marxist Party (CMP)—a Congress ally—by a CMP faction that has switched sides to join the LDF.
“In an election season, you expect political parties to maintain composure but with the CPM in Kannur, it’s different. The Congress is campaigning on both local and national issues but we will target the CPM’s politics of violence,” says T O Mohanan, District Congress Committee general secretary.