A glimmer of hope for LDF to breach IUML fort Ponnani

A glimmer of hope for LDF to breach IUML fort Ponnani
Candidates at Ponnani - ET Mohammed Basheer, PV Anvar, and VT Rema.

The Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency always threw its full weight behind Muslim League. There might have been some highs and lows but the constituency never ditched Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). It was Ponnani that saved the day for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) to a certain extent in the 2004 general elections when many of UDF’s fortresses, including Malappuram (Manjeri), crumbled.

There is a glimmer of hope for the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) as the UDF’s majority in Ponnani is shrinking with each Lok Sabha election. The LDF reminds that the ladder, the election symbol of Muslim League, can be used for climbing down as well. It was G N Banatwala from Maharashtra who hoisted Muslim League’s green flag for the first time in Ponnani as he won the seat in 1977. After that, the flag has only flown higher in the following parliamentary elections as Banatwala scaled the ladder and reached Parliament on seven occasions. Ebrahim Sulaiman Sait and E Ahamed too came up trumps from Ponnani.

Later, it was the turn of E T Mohammed Basheer to represent Muslim League from the Ponnani constituency, and he won quite handsomely in the last two Lok Sabha elections. The LDF is trying hard to find ways and means to uproot Muslim League that had stayed put in Ponnani for close to four decades.

Ponnani Lok Sabha Constituency | Elections 2019

A political laboratory

Ponnani is a political laboratory for the LDF but history points out that the front’s experiments have only miserably failed in the past. The LDF made its first experiment in the 2009 elections with an aim to shake the foundation of IUML in Ponnani. As part of the strategy, the CPI (M) swapped with its ally CPI the newly created Wayanad constituency and Ponnani.

With the blessing of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Abdul Naseer Madani, scholar Dr Hussain Randathani contested from Ponnani constituency as an LDF-backed independent candidate. The understanding between the PDP and the CPI (M) backfired not only in Ponnani but also in other constituencies for the CPI (M).

In the last Lok Sabha elections, former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) member V Abdurahiman was fielded as an LDF-backed independent candidate to stop Basheer from winning the Ponnani seat. But that effort too went in vain. The candidacy of Abdurahiman only created fissures in the UDF vote bank resulting in a lesser majority for Basheer. Later, Abdurahiman was elected as an LDF MLA from Tanur.

Lok Sabha Elections 2014 | Ponnani

This was also when LDF has came forward with a similar experiment. The LDF has pitted Nilambur MLA P V Anwar, who is also a former Congress leader, against Basheer in Ponnani. With this move, the LDF is eyeing the votes of the minorities and a section of Congress workers.

Shrinking majority

The shrinking majority is a matter of concern for the UDF as Basheer is gearing up to get elected as a parliamentarian for the third time. The majority was 82,684 votes in 2009. This has dipped to 25,410 votes in the last elections. As per the Assembly poll numbers, the UDF’s majority in the Ponnani Lok Sabha seat is a meagre 1,071 votes.

But the UDF is of the opinion that the current situation in Ponnani is quite different. The UDF believes that the people’s sentiments against the Modi government and the development work carried out by Basheer as a parliamentarian would work in favour of the Congress-led front. The UDF is also careful not to split the votes of the minorities. The allegation that Muslim League leaders had closed-door negotiations with Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) was the talk of the constituency until recently. The IUML heaved a sigh of relief as the SDPI jumped into the election fray; putting to rest allegations against Muslims League leaders.

The Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency comprises Tirurangadi, Tanur, Tirur, Kottakkal, Tavanur and Ponnani Assembly segments, and Thrithala in Palakkad district. While the UDF has an upper hand in Tirurangadi, Tirur, Kottakkal and Thirthala, the LDF’s strongholds are Tanur, Tavanur and Ponnani.

ET Mohammed Basheer
ET Mohammed Basheer

Familiar faces

The candidates fielded by all three political fronts are very familiar to the electorate. UDF’s Basheer is the national organising secretary of Muslim League and is a four-time MLA. He was the state education minister thrice, and was first elected to the Kerala Assembly in the Peringalam by-election in 1985. Later, he was elected as MLA for three times from Tirur.

LDF nominee P V Anwar is the sitting MLA of Nilambur. He was the district vice-president of the Youth Congress. Anwar was also the district vice-president and state executive membero of DIC (Democratic Indira Congres). He contested from the Ernad Assembly seat as an independent in 2011 and pushed the CPI candidate to the fourth place. He also plunged into the election fray as an independent candidate from Wayanad in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In 2016, Anwar was elected to the Kerala Assembly from Nilambur as an independent with the backing of the LDF.

Mahila Morcha state president V T Rema is the NDA nominee in Ponnani. She is an English teacher at the Pattambi Government College, and has contested from Thrithala in the Assembly elections.

SDPI candidate K C Nazeer and PDP nominee Poonthura Siraj are also in the fray.

For Modi and Rahul

Basheer is fighting on the plank to make Congress leader Rahul Gandhi the next prime minister of India. During the campaign, he is highlighting the development works initiated by him and the efforts made in Parliament to safeguard the interests of the minority communities. Anwar is stressing the need for a secular coalition to throw out the Modi government. Rema is calling for the continuation of the Modi dispensation.

Both the UDF and the LDF are kicking off their third phase of electioneering and chalking out plans to gain an edge in this coastal constituency. The BJP, the late entrant to the race, is also trying hard to make up for the lost time.