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LDF-backed candidate has the edge in Ernakulam
May 08, 2004 18:45 IST
The battle for the Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency is likely to be a repeat of the last year bypoll, with the ruling United Democratic Front biting the dust.
The Left Democratic Front, which began its campaign early, is supporting independent candidate and sitting MP, Dr Sebastian Paul.
The UDF on the other hand has fielded Dr Edward Edezhath, a college professor, who is making his electoral debut. Though the Congress is not happy with his candidature, they are now actively campaigning for him.
During the September 23 bypoll, necessitated by the death George Eden, Paul's victory was a foregone conclusion as the infighting in Congress was at its peak with even some senior leaders openly soliciting votes for LDF candidate.
The alleged anti-minority statement issued by Chief Minister A K Antony is also said to have earned the wrath of the electorate in the predominantly Muslim dominated pockets of Aluva, Mattancherry and some parts of Tripunithura.
This time, though the party is united and Antony's statement had almost been forgotten, Edezhath is yet to make an impression, according to LDF poll managers who feel they have no cause of worry.
The BJP has fielded O G Thankappan, who is also trying to garner some votes.
The heavy rains during the last three days has affected the campaign.
The manner in which the minority community decides to exercise their franchise could also affect the poll outcome.
The Christian community constitutes 37.83 per cent of the electorate of 10,55,374, while the backward Ezhava community comprises 18 per cent and Muslims account for 14 per cent.
The confusion in Congress over the choice of the candidate and also faction feuds provided Paul, who was approaching the electorate for the second time barely seven months after his resounding victory last year, an early advantage in the electoral race.
He had then won by a margin of 22,134 votes defeating UDF's M O John.
However, the visit by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who addressed a meeting here and the 'Navothana Yatra' led by Antony, has given the much-needed impetus to UDF's campaigning and boosted the confidence in the ruling camp.
After a sluggish start, the UDF campaign had picked up in all the assembly segments with street corner meetings and door-to-door campaign.
The LDF camp seems to be unperturbed by the new found unity in the Congress, which they claim would last only till the election.
The LDF claims to have added more life to its campaign by bringing out a booklet which touches upon the development needs of the constituency and also proposes a series of projects including development of infrastructure, energy, transport, industries and ports.
The LDF has trained its guns on BJP-led NDA government and also accused the UDF Government in the state of pursuing "anti-people and anti-labour policies".
The state government is blindly following the Centre's economic policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, they charged.
On the other hand, UDF has accused CPI(M) of following anti-development policy.
Though BJP is not a strong force in the constituency, its candidate Thankappan, has been visiting every nook and corner, wooing the electorate. BJP is banking on the achievements of the NDA Government during its rule at the Centre.
Though the contestants and their political parties trade allegations, all the three main contestants are unanimous in their stand on the speedy implementation of the mega project -- the Vallarpadam International Trans shipment terminal here.
With the rebel Congress candidate Naushad Mather, a local youth Congress leader in the fray, observers feel he is not likely to pose any threat to the UDF.
Another front led by former CITU leader V B Cherian has fielded P S Gangadharan as its candidate.
The constituency comprises of seven assembly segments of Paravur, Njarakkal-SC, Ernakulam, Mattanchery, Palluruthy, Tripunithura and Aluva.
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