'Silent' campaigning at the eleventh hour

'Silent' campaigning at the eleventh hour

All the Lok Sabha candidates in Kerala on Wednesday were on a “silent campaign” after open campaigning in the state ended on Tuesday.

The run-up to election in the 20 Parliamentary constituencies, however, has been far from silent with almost every campaign week throwing up a potential twist in fortunes for the two prominent political fronts: the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF).

The murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T P Chandrasekharan was tipped to emerge as a key poll issue in the northern constituencies of Kannur, Kozhikode and Vadakara. But the CPM, cornered for involvement of party workers in the murder, managed to counter the damage with veteran leader V S Achuthanandan falling in line with the party stand that prompt corrective action had been taken against the culprits. Achuthanandan yet again emerged as the star presence in the LDF rallies.

However, the exit of Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) from the LDF did come as a jolt for the CPM. N K Premachandran, the RSP candidate, is now fighting a close battle in Kollam against CPM Politburo member M A Baby. A derogatory comment made against Premachandran by CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan dominated poll talk through the last week of the campaign.

The Congress, feeling the heat in the Idukki constituency on the issue of Western Ghats conservation, is also grappling with dissent from within its fold in some of the constituencies. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s controversial meeting with pastors in Thiruvananthapuram also hit headlines in the campaign’s last lap. The party is also hoping that the High Court's unflattering observations on functioning of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s office don’t dent its prospects.

The CPM surprised political analysts by fielding five independents in Ponnani, Idukki, Chalakudy, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta. The party is contesting only from 10 constituencies while the CPI has fielded candidates from four. The Congress is contesting from 15 seats with candidates of allies fielded from the other five. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the UDF had won 16 seats against the LDF’s four.

Pre-poll surveys have predicted close contests in most of the constituencies. The BJP, yet to win an Assembly or Parliamentary seat in Kerala, is pitching for big gains through O Rajagopal in Thiruvananthapuram where a three-way contest is underway. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entered the fray with candidates from 15 constituencies.

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