Three-way contest unfolds in Kerala capital

Three-way contest unfolds in Kerala capital

Three-way contest unfolds in Kerala capital

As campaigning ahead of the April 10 Lok Sabha election in Kerala draws to a close, it’s Thiruvananthapuram where the state is likely to host its only intense three-way contest.

In a state that has traditionally endorsed the two political fronts led by the CPM and the Congress with varying affinity, the BJP is eyeing its best returns here.

The Lok Sabha constituency with a strong Nair and Nadar presence has in the past seen community-based vote swings. While the community equations are yet again at play in Thiruvananthapuram – from the choice of candidates to campaigns to woo minority communities – this election will also be a battle of diverse personalities with development projects in and around the capital city taking centre stage.

Sitting Congress MP and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor is in a three-way contest with Bennet Abraham of the CPI and O Rajagopal of the BJP. Thampanoor Ravi, in-charge of the United Democratic Front (UDF) election campaign in the constituency, said Tharoor’s image as a progressive, development-oriented leader would lead to a “comfortable” win for the Congress. “It’s going to be a favourable verdict for the development projects initiated by Tharoor in the constituency and the good work by the UDF government,” Ravi told Deccan Herald.

Tharoor has released details of projects worth over Rs 2,500 crore in the constituency.

The MP’s team has highlighted achievements that include new roads, efforts to establish a high court division bench in the capital city, new hospital buildings and about 430 projects launched with the MP’s funds.

The opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF), however, sees the development agenda as a “boomerang” that could hit Tharoor’s prospects. Opposition campaigners in the constituency have stated that many projects that Tharoor claimed as his achievements had been set in motion before his term as MP.

Senior CPM leader and LDF election committee chairman in Thiruvananthapuram M Vijayakumar said a campaign that countered claims of unrealised development had helped Bennet Abraham “gradually” gain an upper hand in the constituency. The LDF is also tapping on to a controversy over Tharoor’s recent meeting with a group of pastors. “During the meeting, the candidate himself has said that he’s fighting a tough contest,” Vijayakumar said.

Meanwhile, the BJP is hoping to better its 2004 show in the constituency by fielding O Rajagopal, a respected senior leader and former Rajya Sabha member. Rajagopal had in 2004 garnered around 2.28 lakh votes and finished a close third. The BJP has campaigned aggressively and is also banking on hype around its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Vijayakumar, while accepting that it’s a rare three-way contest that’s unfolding in Thiruvananthapuram, turns to history for a rejoinder. “Traditionally, it’s the LDF that gains from triangular electoral contests,” the CPM leader said.

The Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency consists of seven Assembly segments: Kazhakoottam, Vattiyoorkavu, Thiruvananthapuram, Nemom, Kovalam, Neyyattinkara and Parassala.