Haripad: This rural assembly segment in Kerala's rice bowl Kuttanad has gained greater political significance with the entry of KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala as the UDF candidate.
The LDF has pitted CPI's G Krishna Prasad to take on the heavyweight contestant of the Congress.It is rather unusual for PCC presidents entering the poll fray as they are often entrusted with the task of managing the campaign for the party.
The choice of Chennithala as a candidate instantly raised the question whether he is cut out for a major role in the post-election scenario of the UDF, where Oommen Chandy has been widely seen as the Chief Ministerial candidate. But Chennithala himself had denied that he might pose a challenge to Chandy maintaining he entered the fray as asked by party high command.
A constituency that has shifted loyalty between the UDF and the LDF, Haripad is the sitting seat of the Congress. Chennithala had won from Haripad in 1982 and 1987, when he was heading Youth Congress in the state. After serving as a minister in the state at the age of 27 from 1986-87 in the late Karunakaran ministry, he later switched to Parliament getting elected four times in 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1999.
Now in his mid-50s, Chennithala entered politics through the Congress's campus wing KSU and rose to become the all-India president of the Youth Congress and to head the Congress in the state.
A constituency dominated by small and medium farmers and inland fishing community, a part of the area was battered when the 2004 tsunami struck the country. Hence the implementation of tsunami packages has turned out to be one of main topics of the election campaign.
During her visit to Haripad a few days ago, Congress President Sonia Gandhi attacked the LDF government for its "failure" to implement the tsunami rehabilitation schemes. Babu Prasad, the sitting Congress MLA who vacated the segment for Chennithala, said the party victory was certain as the candidate is known to the area well. "He is aware of the problems thoroughly and has a vision to tackle them", Prasad told PTI.
Babuprasad defeated his CPM rival by a margin of 3,817 votes in 2006, when the state was struck by an LDF wave. However, the CPI nominee is not worried over the stature of his rival. "People here know the good works done by the LDF government in the last five years. They will be voting for that instead of making a personal preference," he said.
Krishna Prasad, 33, is a firebrand CPI leader, who also entered politics through his party's student wing AIYF. "A major problem of the people here is scarcity of drinking water, which is an irony of sort, as the constituency lies in the wetlands of Kuttanad. Unfortunately, not much has been done to solve the problem by the outgoing MLA," he said.
BJP has fielded Ajit Shanker, a lawyer. However, the party is not a force in the constituency.
Out of the 11 panchayats in the constituency, a majority of them are now in the hands of UDF. The UDF workers say there is no reason to believe that the situation would change from when the civic polls were held a few months ago.
The constituency has a total electorate of 1, 68,698 with female voters 91,470 and male voters 77,228.