Thiruvananthpuram | The electoral battle from Thiruvanthapuram assembly segment for the May 16 assembly polls has caught national attention with former Indian pacer S Sreesanth making his political debut as BJP candidate, pitted against ruling Congress led UDF and CPIM headed LDF.
A fierce battle is on in the segment with Health Minister V S Sivakumar of Congress going all out to retain the seat. the presence of Antony Raju of Janathipathya Kerala Congress, an associate party of LDF, and Sreesanth has virtually turned the fight into a triangular one.
Though Sreesanth is a novice on the political pitch, the cricket star has quickly learnt the ropes, which is evident from his style of campaigning. A large number of people assemble along the roadsides to have a glimpse of Sreesanth as his campaign rolls on and children gather around him to take selfies.
However, the fight is tough for all, as the highly politically conscious voters of the constituency that houses the state secretariat have never followed a similar pattern in voting and had sided with both UDF and Left in past polls. Government employees form a large part of voters in the segment.
This purely urban constituency also comprises certain pockets of coastline areas carved out of erstwhile Thiruvnanthapuram West and East segments. In the 2011 polls, Sivakumar, a former MP from Thiruvananthapuram, had won by a margin of 5,403 votes defeating his nearest rival V Surendran Pillai, of Kerala Congress (Scaria faction).
Pillai is contesting this time as the Janata Dal(U) candidate of UDF at adjacent Nemom constituency. He had quit KC(S) after he was denied a ticket to contest and moved to UDF after joining JD(U) early this month. While Sivakumar banks on development initiatives, especially in the health sector in the last five years, LDF and BJP attack Congress for alleged corruption during the UDF regime.
BJP aims to replicate its best performance it put in the polls to Thiruvananthapuram City Corporation in the last civic polls, in which they came second after LDF, pushing UDF to third position.
Antony Raju is among the four leaders of Kerala Congress (M), a partner in UDF, who crossed over to LDF after walking out of KCM and formed the new party ‘Janathipathya Kerala Congress on the eve of poll declaration in March. Raju, a former MLA from erstwhile Thiruvananthapuram West, is considered a popular face in the constituency, but his switching sides at the eleventh hour could go against him.
The battle in the segment has become more interesting with the entry of Biju Ramesh, Working President of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, as an AIDMK supported Independent. Ramesh had rattled the UDF government led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy by levelling bar bribery charges against Kerala Congress(M) supremo K M Mani, who resigned as Finance Minister after a court observation related to the bar scam.
Political observers feel it is difficult to state which Front would be adversely affected by votes garnered by Ramesh, who has a sizeable number of followers. If he polls more than 10,000 votes, there was a real possibility it might affect UDF’s prospects, they said, adding the entry of Ramesh has virtually made the poll open to all.