The contrast was striking as United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate K.C. Venugopal’s road show entered the Left bastion Punnapra in the Alappuzha Lok Sabha constituency.
The place was a virtual sea of red, with banners, posters, and festoons in red, bearing Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate C.B. Chandrababu’s image beaming at passers-by.
Mr. Venugopal’s specially designed open jeep and accompanying vehicles painted in Congress’s tri-colour looked somewhat out of place against the red backdrop. But the candidate himself looked composed and confident. He simply smiled and waved at even Mr. Chandrababu’s fans who moved around wearing Chandrababu masks.
Although the response was lukewarm in areas such as Panachuvadu, Makkiyil, Palliveli, and Velithara, there were relatively huge gatherings of supporters to receive the UDF candidate at Pothassery, Chakkittaparamba, Asari Paramba, and Kannattuthayyil.
At each reception, Mr. Venugopal briefly explained his achievements as the sitting MP and these included upgrade of the Government Medical College, Alappuzha, with Central funds of Rs.150 crore, administrative sanction for completing the Alappuzha bypass, and ensuring manned level-crossing at the coastal railway line at 118 points.
He also pleaded for another term to work under Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister to undertake new missions and complete the tasks already undertaken.
VS, Gouri projected
At the time, Mr. Chandrababu was campaigning a little away at North Anjilimoodu and Puthezhathu Mukku, coming under the Kayamkulam Assembly constituency. At both centres, larger than life portraits of Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS) leader K.R. Gouri, who recently left the UDF fold to ‘work closely’ with the LDF, could be seen along with those of CPI(M) veteran and Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan.
Apart from reminding the gathering about the relevance of the Left at the national and State levels, the candidate’s focus was on his more than three-decade-old unblemished public life.
Mr. Chandrababu was mild in his attack on his rivals. He too had a huge list of development needs of Alappuzha, including upgrading of the Kayamkulam thermal power plant; time-bound action plans to save the coir, fisheries, and agricultural sectors; and speedy realisation of the Alappuzha bypass.
At Ambalappuzha, a little distance away, one tracked down National Democratic Alliance’s A.V. Thamarakshan, who was telling his listeners why he had abandoned both the LDF and the UDF after serving them for several years to join the bandwagon of the BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The five-time MLA termed it a new innings for him.
M.A. Bindu, joint candidate of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) and the SUCI, had also been trying to make her presence felt in the constituency, speaking about the politics of murder of the CPI(M) and the neo-liberal economic policies of the Congress.
“It is a fierce battle in Alappuzha with the rival fronts and the BJP having chosen candidates with clear ideological positions. Unlike in the past, the CPI(M) has chosen a senior leader of its own with wide acceptability. Earlier, it had experimented with apolitical candidates chosen from the Latin Catholic community.
With Mr. Achuthanandan and Ms. Gouri mending fences with the CPI(M) leadership, the party has been able to use its entire machinery in the campaign,” says Sasikumar Vasudevan, a resident of Arattupuzha.
“It is a tight fight when compared to the previous elections. If Mr. Venugopal wins, it will be by a slender majority. The UDF is united in his favour, but the Left has made his alleged links with Saritha S. Nair, the solar scam accused, a campaign issue. There is no sign of voter apathy here,” said M.S. Sadique, a voter from Purakkad.