All eyes on Palakkad

via Newindpress published on April 29, 2006

PALAKKAD: Political pundits are keeping their fingers crossed as to whether the BJP will be able to open its account in the state by wresting the Palakkad Assembly constituency. With the campaign having ended on Thursday, the stage is set for a spectacular three-cornered contest in the constituency where senior party leader and former Union Minister O.Rajagopal is facing the electorate.

Development was the campaign mantra of all the three candidates in Palakkad. The achievements listed by UDF candidate A.V.Gopinath, who had won from the red citadel of Alathur in 1991, ranged from Kerala Airways to Smart City.

The posters put up by Gopinath also told an interesting story. While he is seen along with K. Sankaranarayanan, his predecessor and sitting MLA, in posters displayed in one part of the town, he is seen sharing the space with Panakkad Mohammedali Shihab Thangal in the posters displayed in the Muslim areas. In some other areas, the posters show him along with Sonia Gandhi, Antony and Karunakaran.

Gopinath had highlighted that his predecessor had undertaken Rs 100 crore worth of development projects, which include the Kalpathy river beautification. The implementation of a master plan for the development of the town and the completion of the stadium bus stand were among his promises. The visit of Sonia Gandhi to Palakkad and the impressive turnout for her public meeting has raised the UDF hopes.

Meanwhile, the posters of Rajagopal feature the Amritha Express on them. The BJP activists highlighted the projects undertaken by Rajagopal during his tenure as the Union Minister of State for Railways and Urban Development.

The three railway overrides that are nearing completion, the sanctioning of an MEMU (Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit) train between Palakkad and Erode, the allotment of Rs 1 crore for a garbage treatment plant, the sanctioning of the Vambay Scheme aimed at building 750 houses for slum-dwellers and the disbursal of the Rs 2.30-crore Hudco loan for the Kalamandapam bus stand; all found mention in his campaign.

The RSS had called upon its cadres at its baitak to actively campaign for Rajagopal. Rajagopal’s son and filmmaker Syamaprasad had assisted the BJP leader in the last leg of his campaign. The visits of Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi have also given a fillip to the campaign.
The BJP decision to field Rajagopal was based on the impressive performance of the party in the municipal elections. The Brahmin community, which has around 12,000 votes in the Assembly constituency, had supported the BJP in that election.

Though the campaign of LDF candidate K.K.Divakaran was sluggish in the initial stages, it had picked up in the later stages. The LDF was highlighting in its campaign the ‘failures’ of the UDF Government and the lack of infrastructure in the town.

The feeling among the CPM supporters is that they would be able to win if the votes are split between the UDF and the BJP. However, Gopinath had proved in the past that he was capable of cornering the CPM votes also.

The 18,000-odd votes of the Muslim community could also prove to be a key factor. BJP drew up a 30-member Muslim committee for squad work who visited the houses of the Muslim community.


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