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|August 31, 1999||
Campaign Trail/ D Jose
Karunakaran battles EMS legacy in Mukundapuram
Vote for EMS. Such posters in Mukundapuram can startle visitors to this central Kerala Lok Sabha constituency. But the electorate, where the late Marxist leader's son E M Sreedharan is locked in a tough contest with Congress veteran K Karunakaran, know the poster is not soliciting votes for E M S Namboodiripad.
Sreedharan's supporters have abbreviated his name to cash in on the attachment local voters have for the CPI-M patriarch, who passed away more than a year ago. The Marxists are banking on the EMS legacy to ensure victory for Sreedharan who entered politics via the student movement in 1965. His maiden electoral battle in the Sreekrishnapuram assembly constituency in 1991 had ended in defeat.
A chartered accountant, Sreedharan strayed into journalism, was a member of the editorial board on the party publication Chintha, before serving a term as a member of the state planning board. His major assignment at the board was the implementation of the People's Campaign plan conceived by his father as a major step towards decentralisation of governance.
Mukundapuram has mostly backed the Congress or its allies. The only occasion when the United Democratic Front lost was in 1980 when its nominee C G Kumaran was defeated by Marxist leader E Balanandan. The Congress had then split and the A K Antony faction had aligned with the Marxists.
The best opportunity for the CPI-M to regain the seat was in 1998, when Karunakaran forced sitting MP P C Chacko to shift to Idukki and brought in A C Jose, the sitting Idukki MP. This created a lot of bad blood in the UDF. The CPI-M accepted the challenge and fielded a powerful candidate, Govinda Pillai. However, the constituency showed its affection for the UDF and returned Jose by 9,500 votes.
Congressmen believe the unity currently forged at the top by Antony and Karunakaran will help the party win Mukundapuram and other constituencies.
The Congress believes the confusion caused by Left Democratic Front convener and CPI-M Politburo member V S Achutanandan over his party's approach to the Congress has helped Karunakaran turn the tide in Mukundapuram. Achutanandan's assertion that the CPI-M will not support the Congress to form a government at the Centre has evidently caused concern among the minorities, who constitute nearly 45 per cent of the electorate in Mukundpuram.
Karunakaran is anxious to erase his defeat in Thrissur last election. The former chief minister, who started his political career as a municipal councillor in Thrissur in 1945, had fought all his assembly elections from Mala, which is part of the Mukundapuram constituency. Four assembly segments of Thrissur form part of this Lok Sabha borough.
The CPI-M lays much emphasis on the declining victory margins of UDF candidates in Mukundapuram. They hope the steady decline in the winning margins from 99,000 in 1989 to 9,500 votes in 1998 is a pointer to the imminent defeat of the UDF candidate.
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