Puthuppally | Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is yet to launch his formal campaign in Puthuppally, from where he is seeking an 11th term in state Assembly in the May 16 elections, but Congress workers are already confident of his victory with an impressive margin.
Though Chandy is busy with election conventions of the ruling Congress-led UDF, his presence can be felt in every nook and cranny of this constituency which he is credited with nurturing and where he regularly conducted ‘people’s durbar’. This town in Kottayam district is considered his pocket borough as Chandy is the only Congress leader in the state who was elected 10 times in a row to the Assembly from the same constituency.
It is a usual practise of Chandy, popularly known as ‘Kunjunju’ among his supporters, to be in Puthuppally on Sundays for the durbar, if he has no other important official engagements. This has been his practise for the last several years whether he is in the ruling side or in opposition. His affection for his constituency is so deep that he would never miss a chance to be in Puthuppally despite his hectic schedule, say his close associates.
People’s darbar is a miniature version of his popular Mass Contact programme where he used to receive petitions from people personally and take on-the-spot decisions. The innovative statewide programme, which he conducted thrice during the present UDF term, had earned him UN recognition. At the darbar, at least 500-600 people used to come early morning and it used to continue till afternoon. Congress workers feel his victory is assured. “We are working for increasing the margin of 33,255 votes he won in 2011 polls. There is no need to introduce the candidate to voters. Every person in the constituency knows him very well, they told PTI.
UDF convention in the constituency is scheduled to be inaugurated by Kerala Congress (M) supremo and former Finance Minister K M Mani on April 20. A shrewd strategist with the man-next-door image, 73-year-old Chandy has been a key player in Kerala Congress for over four decades. Chandy was just 26-years-old when he became MLA for the first time from Puthupally in 1970 and he never looked back.
Since then, he has been a frontline soldier of Congress in Kerala and has worked hard to build the party a mass political force side-by-side with his seniors A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi. However, despite being a major player and serving as a minister in several UDF governments, Chandy had to wait till 2004 to emerge as Chief Minister following the resignation of Antony owning moral responsibility for the combine’s near-washout in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
To challenge Chandy this time, CPI(M)-led LDF has roped in Students Federation of India state president 25-year-old Jaick C Thomas. LDF’s calculation is that allegations of corruption against the Chief Minister, especially connected to solar and bar bribery scam, would turn the political wind in their favour. I have already completed one round of campaign in the constituency and the second round will end in two-days time, Jaick said. I am getting very good response especially from youth. The focus of my campaign is on corruption in the UDF government and a vote for change, he said.
BJP has fielded in Puthuppally its Vice-President George Kurian, who is also the General Secretary of the party’s Minority Morcha. The constituency consists of eight panchayats – UDF is ruling in seven and LDF in one with the support of an independent. Total number of voters is 1,70,763, out of which 87,240 are women. In the 2011 polls, Chandy garnered 69,922 votes, which is 59.74 percentage of the total votes polled. His CPI(M) rival Suja Susan George got 36,667 votes and BJP candidate P Sunilkumar 6,679 votes.
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