Thodupuzha: Candidates in the border constituencies of the Idukki district in Kerala have picked up another skill - to seek votes in Tamil.
The Tamil factor has merged into the Idukki politics in Devikulam, Udumbanchola and Peermade constituencies. In more than 10 panchayats, over 90 per cent of the population is of Tamil origin. And constituency-wise, around 65 per cent in Devikulam, 22 per cent in Udumbanchola, and 35 per cent in Peermade.
So, banners, posters and speeches all will need to be in Tamil as well. And the campaign trail would follow the more high-voltage Tamil style.
The Tamil factor
Areas such as Munnar, Devikulam, Marayoor, Kanthalloor, Vattavada, Vandiperiyar, Pallivasal, Santhanpara, Peermade, Kumaly, and Nedumkandam will see campaigning in Tamil. In the panchayat election, candidates of the Tamil parties were also in the poll fray in several areas.
Parties such as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), actor Vijayakanth’s party Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), DMK ally Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam all have workers in these areas.
There are also rumours that the AIADMK, which is part of the NDA at the Centre, could also join the NDA in Kerala and field a candidate in Devikulam.
The Tamil political factor is more at play in the Devikulam constituency, which includes Munnar. From Chinnar to Kanthalloor, Marayoor, Munnar, Vattavada, and Rajakkad-Chinnakanal border areas are all regions with Tamil influence. Mostly plantation workers reside in these regions. The descendants of those who came as British tea company workers are currently in Munnar. Devikulam is the only linguistic minority constituency in Kerala.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) and Left Democratic Front (LDF) have secured victories over several times in this constituency, where caste politics is at play.
In the last Assembly elections in 2016, AIADMK candidate R M Dhanalakshmi had got 11,613 votes in Devikulam. Dhanalakshmi secured the third spot, ahead of the NDA candidate. LDF candidate S Rajendran had won by 5,482 votes then.
Both fronts are fielding fresh faces this time. The NDA reckons that it can make gains by joining hands with the AIADMK.
Udumbanchola mostly has Tamil-origin people, who migrated to border areas as farmers and workers at cardamom plantations. The LDF has a clear dominance in this constituency. However, there are allegations of double voting (people vote in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu).
Minister M M Mani will contest from Udumbanchola again. A senior leader from the UDF is likely to be fielded against him. The NDA too is hopeful of making advances in the constituency, where the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) also wields influence.
The Tamil vote bank in Peermade depends on the plantation sector. Therefore, the parties are more focused on labour union activities. Labour leaders have mostly won from Peermade. More than half of the voters are migrant farmers. But the Tamil voters, living at layam (line houses of plantation workers), determine the politics of Peermade.