Despite factionalism during selection of candidates, rivals UDF is expected to go all out to improve its tally
With the LDF keen on repeating the clean sweep of 2016 and the UDF all geared up to improve its tally, Kollam has become an interesting battlefield to watch out for. The equations have changed compared to the early days of campaigning and the incertitude has kept both the fronts on tenterhooks, at least in some segments. The BJP-led NDA has also buckled down to the fight after establishing itself as one the main rivals in Chathannur during the last Assembly elections. Currently, the UDF has zero seats in the district, with the Left coalition claiming all eleven segments.
The district has seen no Congress MLA since 2006, and in a bid to bounce back, the party is contesting in seven seats. There have been internal wars between its factions regarding candidatures, the loudest being the one for the Kollam constituency. Posters and social media posts surfaced against the Kundara candidate P.C. Vishnunath, calling him a “migratory bird” even before the official announcement. Reportedly, the UDF leadership had a tough time dealing with Kottarakara, Punalur and Chandayamangalam segments as well.
No easy task
Finding candidates for the seats vacated by sitting MLAs K. Raju and Mullakkara Ratnakaran was no easy task for the CPI either as the leadership had to face strong dissent from some quarters. The infighting took a nasty turn in the form of protest marches and parallel conventions in Chadayamangalam where the party decided to field national council member J. Chinju Rani to ensure female representation. While the decision to field actor-turned-politician M. Mukesh for a second time sparked resentment among a section of the CPI(M) cadre, the NDA had to brave the wrath of the RSS for denying seats to their nominees.
The LDF leadership seems confident about Eravipuram where the CPI(M) leader and sitting MLA M. Naushad is seeking the mandate for a second time. Meanwhile, the UDF has fielded veteran RSP leader and former Minister Babu Divakaran to wrest the segment. While Kollam is all geared for a neck-and-neck fight between DCC president Bindu Krishna and sitting MLA Mr. Mukesh, perhaps Chathannur is the only Assembly segment in the district that is poised to witness a triangular contest between the three major fronts. In Chathannur, sitting MLA G.S. Jaylal will be fighting senior Congress leader and former Kollam MP N. Peethambara Kurup and BJP district president B.B. Gopakumar who polled more votes than the UDF candidate in 2016.
Deep-sea fishing row
In Kundara, Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma, who had to face attacks from all corners following the deep-sea fishing deal controversy, has a strong opponent in the young Congress leader P.C. Vishnunath. CPI(M) State secretariat member and former Rajya Sabha MP K.N. Balagopal is contesting in Kottarakara, a constituency where he is quite popular. Pitted against him are Congress nominee and district panchayat member R. Rashmi and Vayakkal Soman of the BJP.
While Kovoor Kunnumon of the RSP(L) is seeking the mandate for the fifth term from Kunnathur as the LDF candidate, both the UDF and the NDA have high hopes about their candidates Ullas Kovoor (RSP) and Raji Prasad (BJP). KPCC general secretary C.R. Mahesh is expected to offer a stiff competition to the CPI’s R. Ramachandran in Karunagapally after losing the seat to the latter for a slim margin in 2016. Another segment that has grabbed the attention of political observers is Chavara where the RSP is facing a crucial electoral battle.
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