Chengannur: The future political map of Kerala could be decided by the way the Chengannur Assembly constituency chooses to vote on May 28 for the crucial byelection. The BJP, if elected from the constituency, promises to redraw the map of the state by carving out a new district which will have Chengannur as its headquarters.
The proposal, which BJP candidate P S Sreedharan Pillai terms his biggest poll promise, has, however, been snubbed by the CPM and the Congress alike. The two major rivals echo each other while dismissing the saffron party's proposal as impractical and unwarranted.
Pillai, who hopes to emerge the winner bettering his impressive performance in Chengannur in the Assembly polls in 2016, was all confident when announcing his unusual promise to Onmanorama amid a hectic campaign on Tuesday. The BJP, ever since the campaign began, has been projecting Chengannur as an underdeveloped constituency and a victim of the state's traditional two-front politics. The party's proposal to make a new district around Chengannur is its panacea for all the alleged infrastructure and administrative crises in the area.
However, the details of the proposal have not been divulged.
Sources in the BJP, who were part of the campaign, said the demand for a separate district for the people of Chengannur has been there in the air for a long time. "The demand for a central Travancore district was raised decades ago. It paved way for the formation of Pathanamthitta district in the early 1980s. Even then the people of Chengannur wanted the area to be a part of Pathanamthitta district. However, it remained with Alappuzha district," the source said.
However, this claim of a long-term demand is disputed. The people with whom Onmanorama spoke were not very keen about the idea. "Sreedharan Pillai sir said it. Let's see what his plans are," said an elderly voter who vowed to vote for the BJP.
'Unwanted and impractical'
The ruling CPM dismisses the proposal as unwanted and impractical. Finance minister T M Thomas Isaac, who is in the forefront of LDF's campaign, said Kerala does not need another district. Asked what he thought would have prompted the BJP to moot such an unusual idea, Isaac belittled the promise saying he did not consider the BJP as a key contender.
The Congress, aiming to come back to power in its traditional stronghold where it had to suffer loss in the 2016 polls, also does not take the poll plank of a separate district seriously. Its candidate D Vijayakumar counters the proposal with the promise of a development authority for Chengannur.
"If at all Kerala decides to form a new district, I think it will be in Muvattupuzha which is the biggest taluk in the state. The demand to make Chengannur a district is unwanted," he told Onmanorama.
Chengannur is witnessing a triangular contest with the LDF, UDF and BJP eyeing to win the seat at any cost. Though the result of the bypoll, necessitated by the death of CPM's K K Ramachandran Nair, will not affect the power equations in the state, a win is a must for the CPM to prove that there is no anti-incumbency threat to the Pinarayi Vijayan government. The Congress needs to wrest the seat from CPM to claim that its traditional vote base is intact and has not slid towards the BJP in the Narendra Modi wave. The BJP, which leapfrogged to a whopping 29 per cent votes last time from a meagre 6%, can't think of a fall in the numbers.
The poll result will be known on May 31.