With less than two weeks left for the April 13 assembly elections, the battle has warmed up for 30 seats in three southern districts of Kerala [ Images ], seen crucial for both the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Democratic Front and Congress headed United Democratic Front.
Results from Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts are widely considered an indicator for government formation as the front that wins the maximum segments has usually formed the government in the state in the past.
LDF bagged nine of 14 segments in Thiruvananthapuram and virtually swept Kollam district by securing 10 of 11 seats in the 2006 assembly elections.
UDF performed better only in Pathanamthitta by cornering five of seven assembly segments. But with delimitation, two constituencies -- Kaloorpara and Pathanamthitta ceased to exist, a cause for concern for UDF.
However, the political situation in Kerala has changed drastically since the 2006 polls. The 2009 Lok Sabha polls and civic polls saw a swing of votes in favour of the UDF.
Also, community organisations that enjoy a decisive say in these parts are yet to spell out their preference.
Development issues remain the focus of the campaign for both fronts and the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ]. LDF and BJP have also been raising the 2G spectrum scam and other corruption issues that have come to haunt the UPA government at the Centre.
One of the key contests on the cards is at Nemmon segment in the state capital, where former Union Minister O Rajagopal (BJP) is contesting, with the saffron party banking on him as their 'best bet' to bloom a 'lotus' in the Kerala assembly.
The presence of Rajagopal in the fray has made it a three cornered fight at Nemmom. CPI-M's [ Images ] sitting MLA and firebrand leader V Sivamkutty is the LDF nominee and Charupara Ravi is Socialist Janata Democratic (UDF) candidate.
Another prominent personality seeking election from the region is K Muraleedharan, former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president and son of late Congress leader K Karunakaran from Vattyourkavu in Thiruvananthapuram.
Cherian Philip, a former Congressman who switched sides in the 2001 polls, is the LDF candidate while V V Rajesh is the BJP nominee.
State Ports Minister and leader of Kerala Congress (P C Thomas faction) is pitted against District Congress president and former MP, V S Sivakumar in Thiruvananthapuram segment.
Former BJP state president P K Krishnadas is also in the fray. LDF has an impressive presence in its traditional strongholds in other segments like Attingal, Varkala, Chirayinkeezhu, Nedumangad and Vamanapuram, where senior CPI-M leader Koliyakode Krishnan Nair is the LDF candidate against his main opponent C Mohanachandran of Congress.
Sitting Congress MLA George Mercier is having a tough time in Kovalam segment where LDF has put up Jameela Prakasam of JD-S. She is the wife of former Minister Nellalohidadas Nadar, who represented the constituency in the past.
The segment has a large number of Hindu and Christian Nadar community. Contests in the newly carved out Thiruvananthapuram, Vattiyurkavu, Aruvikara, Kattakada and Chiryinkeezhu segments have evoked interest.
It would be an acid test for the rival fronts and BJP, which claims to wield considerable influence in these segments.
In neighbouring Kollam district, five outgoing and two former ministers are testing their fortunes in 11 constituencies making it a 'VIP arena' in the election.
Senior CPI-M leader and Labour Minister P K Gurudasan is seeking re-election from Kollam where his main opponent is Congress candidate K C Rajan. In Kundara, Education Minister M A Baby is trying his luck for the second consecutive time against Congress nominee P Jermeeias.
RSP leader and Water Resources Minister N K Preamchandran is contesting from Chavara, where his main rival is Shibu Baby Johan, leader of an RSP faction, a UDF partner.
CPI leader and Food Minister C Divkaran and Agriculture Minister Mullakara Ratnakaran, also from CPI, are seeking relection from Karunagapally and Chandayamangalam seats.
Former ministers in the fray are Kerala Congress(B) leader and sitting MLA K B Ganesh Kumar, seeking a hat trick of wins from Pathanapuram and P K K Bava, a former Public Words Minister of IUML from Eravipuram.
Bava is coming back to the election arena after a 20-year gap. In Pathanamthitta district, former Congress minister Panthalam Sudhakaran is the UDF candidate from Adoor reserved constituency against CPI's Chittayam Gopakumar.
CPI-M has renominated two of its sitting MLAs Raju Abraham and K C Rajagopal from Ranni and Aranmula against Philipos Thomas and K Sivadasan Nair of Congress respectively.