Different narratives in clash of natives in Communist cradle

As the evening shadows grow long, United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate Shanimol Usman’s roadshow entered Mannanchery grama panchayat. Travelling inroads atop a specially designed open jeep, decorated in Congress tricolour, she waves at the people, especially women and children, who came out to see her.

At Appooru, the road leading to the reception venue is narrow and dilapidated. Ms. Usman, who looks tired after electioneering a full day under the scorching sun, gets down from the vehicle to make the rest of the journey by foot. She is given a rousing welcome by around 100 UDF workers and people in the area. ‘‘I have a strong bond with Mannanchery. I feel like I’m back home,’’ she says.

Ms. Usman then goes on to describe the achievements of K.C. Venugopal, MP, violence against women and candidature of Congress president Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad to garner votes. ‘‘This time the Prime Minister of the country will be elected from Kerala,’’ she says.

Although Ms. Usman, a senior Congress leader, is no stranger to people in the region, her candidacy in the Alappuzha Lok Sabha constituency was unanticipated until Mr. Venugopal, who was widely expected to contest for a third time in a row, decided not to seek re-election citing party organisational responsibilities.

The UDF, which is hoping for a hat-trick of victories from the cradle of the Communist movement, is largely dependent on the ‘good works’ in the last 10 years and a Congress wave to retain the seat.

At the same time, Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate A.M. Ariff of the CPI(M) is on a tour of Cherthala. Like Ms. Usman, Mr. Ariff is also a native of Alappuzha. Wherever he goes, the places are teeming with supporters. In most of the receptions, people are welcoming him with ‘kanikkonna (cassia fistula), flowers and red garlands made of eco-friendly materials.

The CPI(M) had announced the candidature of Mr. Ariff, sitting MLA representing the Aroor Assembly constituency, way ahead of others to wrest the seat at any cost. Leading a spirited campaign, Mr. Ariff is seeking votes in the name of development and to fight communal and fascist forces. He promises to help the coir and seafood industries and bring overall development.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate K.S. Radhakrishnan of the BJP too is engaged in a high-decibel campaign and is out there to prove a point. Mr. Radhakrishnan is mostly banking on the achievements of the Modi government to win votes.


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