The Nemom Legislative Assembly constituency in Thiruvananthapuram district has acquired even more political significance with the Congress fielding its seasoned warrior K Muraleedharan in a bid to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from retaining its sole seat in the state legislature.
The high-profile contest, though does not worry the BJP, but has become a prestige battle for its opponents, the CPM and the Congress. The major parties in the fray do not want to end up third if they can't win!
The BJP is confident that its candidate Kummanam Rajasekharan could repeat the win colleague O Rajagopal had pulled off in Nemom in 2016. Rajagopal had set history in 2016 by becoming the first and lone BJP member in the State Legislative Assembly.
CPM has again fielded its local strongman and former Thiruvananthapuram Mayor V Sivankutty, who came second in 2016. The CPM and BJP candidates had bumped into each other on the premises of Konchiravila Devi Temple the other day. They, though not known to each other unlike Muraleedharan and Kummanam, exchanged pleasantries.
Muraleedharan and Kummanam had contested against each other from the neighbouring Vattiyoorkaavu in 2016. When Muraleedharan finished ahead of Kummanam, CPM’s T N Seema came third. The result, especially the third place, shocked the CPM-led Left Democratic Front.
In Nemom that time V Surendran Pillai of the Janata Dal, who contested as the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate, came third with just 13,860 votes, when Sivankutty took on Rajagopal. The Congress is adamant this time to compensate for the UDF’s pathetic loss in Nemom. Its initial move was to nominate former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, but later zeroed-in on its trusted warrior Muraleedharan, who doesn't mind to be fielded anywhere.
BJP, however, is unperturbed. It is pinning its hopes on more than 60 per cent of the upper-caste voters in the constituency. Though Rajagopal has been repeating that his popularity, and not just his party’s influence, as the major factor that has led the BJP to the Assembly in 2016, the results of the Lok Sabha and local body polls are fuelling the BJP’s confidence in the constituency.
Merely 9 km from the State Secretariat, the constituency has 21 corporation wards and the BJP had won 14 in the civic polls held last December. The rest of the wards are with LDF. Though the BJP could not win Thiruvananthapuram in the last Lok Sabha polls, Nemom, part of the constituency, stood by the NDA and its losing candidate Kummanam.
The Congress, on the other hand, is seeing the Lok Sabha poll result in a positive light. Shashi Tharoor had come second in Nemom in the parliament election, making Muraleedharan believe that an additional campaign push would help him win.
Sivankutty, though second in 2016, has been finding solace in the additional 9,000-odd votes he garnered over 2011, when he had won the constituency. But with Muraleedharan’s surprise entry into the fray, both Sivankutty and Kummanam are cautious. If it was the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) versus the Left Democratic Frobt (LDF) in 2016, Muraleedharan’s nomination ensured that Nemom would witness a tight, triangular contest.
Sivankutty and Kummanam fired the first salvo at Muraleedharan, currently the Lok Sabha MP from Vadakara, saying they would represent Nemom in the Assembly for the next five years, if elected. The obvious reference was to Muraleedharan’s resignation as Vattiyoorkavu MLA after his election to the Parliament from Vadakara in 2019.
The Congress candidate retaliated, saying he would nurture Nemom like he had developed Vattiyoorkavu.
Tactical voting likely
RSS leader R Balashankar had alleged a CPM-BJP understanding in the Chengannur constituency. Sensing the danger the statement could cause in Nemom, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was quick to remind the covert, alleged understanding in the constituency in 2016 that led to Rajagopal’s win.
The Congress, meanwhile, is of the firm belief that fielding a tall leader like Muraleedharan could help it overcome RSS’s grassroots-level influence, and CPM’s organisation strength in Nemom.
As the contest hots up, it has become prestigious for all the three fronts not only to win the segment, but also avoid ending up third.