No clear favourite in Aranmula

No clear favourite in Aranmula

No clear favourite in Aranmula

Kerala Tourism brochures invariably tag the town of Aranmula in the southern district of Pathanamthitta with staple references to heritage and tradition.

Home to the legendary Parthasarathy Temple and venue of a hugely popular snake boat race, the town also produces the celebrated Aranmula metal mirrors.

As sitting MLA of the Assembly constituency ahead of the May 16 election, senior Congress leader K Sivadasan Nair will also be hoping that his performance over 5 years helps in maintaining the party’s dominance as something staple and uncontested.

The district leadership of his party is also swearing by Aranmula’s traditional allegiance to the Congress. “This is a safe seat for the United Democratic Front. The feedback we get from the campaign is that Sivadasan Nair is all set for another term with a good margin,” P Mohanraj, Pathanamthitta district president of the Congress, told DH.

Aranmula, however, has emerged as one of Kerala’s key constituencies where numbers from the past could prove mere numbers. The CPM has fielded television journalist Veena George against Nair. Veena’s campaign has an accent of change; some of her election posters also seek a vote from youth.

Some of the local CPM supporters, however, maintain that this is not one of those familiar young challenger-vs-seasoned incumbent battles.

“Veena George is not an outsider. She has been the most visible candidate and more importantly, this UDF dominance is not something with a long history. These days, there’s no such thing called a safe seat,” Gopakumar, a CPM supporter, said. The Left last won Aranmula in 2006 when CPM’s K C Rajagopalan was elected.

The CPM claims it has pacified dissenters in the party — Veena was, initially, targeted for being a nominee of the Church — and put together a development-centric campaign in the constituency which is home to many NRI families. The BJP has fielded M T Ramesh, setting up a three-way contest. Ramesh, contesting from the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency in 2014, had secured 23,771 votes from Aranmula (Congress’ Anto Antony who won the election polled 58,826 votes).

“In last year’s local body election, the BJP’s votes in Aranmula increased to about 35,000. Now, with an alliance with Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (a new political party formed by the Ezhava community leadership) in place, we are definitely eyeing victory,” Asokan Kulanada, BJP leader and district president, told DH. The BJP promises what it calls replication of the Centre’s development agenda in Aranmula. The party also claims that support from Christian-dominant regions in the constituency is on the rise.

Airport impasse

Even as all the three key players in the fray claim commitment to the development cause, leaders are guarded on questions on a proposed airport in Aranmula, mired in controversies and environmental concerns. The CPM has said it’s not against the airport but has questioned the project over its environmental impact.

 Kulanada says the district needs an airport but not in Aranmula. The Congress shuns the talk altogether — “We are not discussing the airport this election,” Mohanraj said.

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