Will Lotus bloom ? – All eyes to Neyattinkara

published on May 7, 2012

By-poll fever grips Kerala’s Neyyattinkara

Campaigning for the June 2 by-election in Neyyattinkara Assembly constituency in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram district has reached a feverish pitch despite the fact that the notification for the by-election will be issued by the Election Commission later this week only.

Unlike in the past elections, Neyyattinkara is witnessing a clear triangular fight this time with the popularity of BJP candidate O Rajagopal, former Union Minister, increasing by the day as the two other main coalitions, the Congress-led ruling UDF and the CPI(M)-led Opposition LDF, have fielded “political turncoats” as their candidates.

The UDF candidate is Marxist renegade R Selvaraj, whose resignation as CPI(M) MLA of Neyyattinkara on March 9 had necessitated the by-election. The LDF, which has made Selvaraj’s “treason” as the main weapon against Selvaraj, has fielded F Lawrence, a former activist of the Kerala Congress (J), which in 2010 merged with UDF ally Kerala Congress (M).

Athiyannoor Sreekumar, BJP candidate in the 2011 election, had polled only 6,730 votes in Neyyattinkara with a 1.5-lakh strong electorate but there are already expectations of a possible victory for Rajagopal in the by-poll in the prevailing situation where the majority community is deeply disillusioned with the main coalitions, especially the UDF.

Expressing confidence that Rajagopal would win the by-election, a BJP poll manager said the electorate’s mood and arithmetic were in his favour. “This by-poll will prove to the Keralites that personal integrity and political commitment are more important than electoral gimmicks It’s a fight between truth and sincerity on one side and hypocrisy and treason on the other,” he said.

The NSS, outfit of Hindu Nairs, has already taken a pledge to teach the UDF a lesson for being biased in favour of the minorities as seen in the case of the allotment of a fifth Cabinet berth to the Muslim League. The BJP hopes that a good percentage of Nair votes, a major force in Neyyattinkara, to go to Rajagopal’s kitty.

In an indirect but open declaration of support to Rajagopal, Vellappally Natesan, general secretary of the SNDP, forum of Hindu Ezhavas, said the other day that nobody should be surprised if the BJP candidate made history in Neyyattinkara by winning the by-poll. Like Nairs, Ezhavas also are a big force in the constituency.

However, independent observers say that it is a bit “greedy” on the part of the BJP to expect victory for its candidate in Neyyattinkara but they agree with the argument that there is a strong chance that Rajagopal emerge as the first runner-up. Even that will be a huge achievement as far as the BJP is concerned, they say.

The LDF, for which the by-poll is a question of prestige, is facing multiple problems in Neyyattinkara. The first hurdle Lawrence faces in the by-poll is the popularity of Selvaraj, an influential leader of the Nadar community, which constitutes almost half the electorate. In Lawrence’s case also, his biggest qualification to be candidate is perhaps his Nadar background.

It was in this situation that a terrible bolt hit the CPI(M) in the form of the ruthless murder of rebel leader TP Chandrasekharan at Onchiyam in Kozhikode on May 4. Though the CPI(M) is trying its level best to prove its “innocence” in the killing, the general belief is against them and the UDF is out to derive maximum mileage out of the situation.

“In the present circumstances, the CPI(M) cannot even think of losing the Neyyattinkara by-poll but it seems that they will have to be prepared for anything if one goes by the indications,” according to a Thiruvananthapuram-based pollster. ”The Chandrasekharan murder is sure to complicate things for them,” he said.

The Neyyattinkara by-election is less crucial as far as the strength of the Government is concerned compared to the March 17 Piravam by-poll. The ruling UDF presently has 72 members in the 140-seat Assembly while the LDF strength is 67 after the departure of Selvaraj. Even if the UDF loses this by-poll it will not affect the continuity of the Government.

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