'Kerala's pride' Sampath eyes success

'Kerala's pride' Sampath eyes success

In Uzhappakonam, a village off Nedumangad town near Thiruvananthapuram, a group of CPM workers is busy lining up party flags ahead of a visit by party candidate and sitting MP from Attingal A Sampath.

As an opening act, a local CPM leader takes over the microphone and launches a tirade against the Congress party with stinging barbs reserved for the Union and state governments.

There’s a mood of anticipation among women who wait for shared auto-rickshaws and trucks to get to the town. “Is he winning this time too?” asks one of them. Before the question drifts on to a full-fledged debate, a campaign car passes with a party worker announcing the arrival of Sampath – the “Symbol of simplicity”, “Kerala’s pride in Parliament” and the “Champion of Attingal’s development”.

Sampath, a popular face in the region’s politics for about two decades, doesn’t quite need the superlatives for introduction. In 1996, he won the Chirayankeezhu Lok Sabha seat that was later reconstituted into the Attingal constituency.

But he is not one to get complacent and underestimate opposition in a crucial Lok Sabha election. Sampath had started unofficial campaigning in the constituency weeks before the Congress announced its candidate Bindu Krishna.

Finally, the candidate arrives to cheers and palpable excitement around the junction. DYFI cadre burst the mandatory crackers before Sampath makes a brief address.

“Thanks for all the support. You know my symbol… my name appears fourth on the candidate list,” he said before dashing off to the next venue. Sampath’s motorcade is covering the Mannurkonam area through the day and each venue gets only about three to five minutes from the candidate.

“That’s all he would need… he’s a candidate seen by the people as one among them,” Ajith Kumar, a DYFI activist in Nedumangad, said. R Govindan, who runs a hotel in the town, said the April 10 election could be fought between personalities because development has always been an election issue and the results have not been encouraging. “More than what Sampath has done for the constituency, it’s his image as an active Parliamentarian and his roots here that the Congress will have to worry about,” he said.

At nearby Karipoor, Sampath makes another stop-over. The village roads are marked with posters detailing funds spent by the MP. One of them calls Sampath the ‘Number One MP’ in the state in terms of funds spent on development. Sampath has been active in the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF)’s agitation against the state government on the solar panel scam. His campaign, however, looks beyond the scams by rivals and is pegged to issues like price rise and unemployment.

Before the party workers head for another meeting spot on their motorbikes, one of them asks his friend to straighten a tilted flex board. The constituency, as erstwhile Chirayankeezhu to present-day Attingal, has stayed an LDF bastion in Lok Sabha elections for over two decades. The CPM will also hope to keep that record intact.

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