Considering the high stakes involved in the ensuing legislative assembly elections in Kerala, the Opposition of Congress-led United Democratic Front is busy choosing the right kind of weapons to deliver hard blows to the Left Democratic Front government. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his team are also utilising every occasion to give it back to the Leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, in equal measure.
As is Chennithala's wont, he takes out his weapons at press conferences and public platforms to unleash them against the government. He chooses the venue cleverly. For instance, during the first phase of the UDF rally, Aishwarya Yatra, last month he exposed the government's deal on deep-sea fishing with a US firm while he was at communist strongholds like Chadayamangalam in Kollam district knowing very well the kind of ripples the issue can create in the constituency. The issue has the potential to reverberate in the neighbouring Kundara constituency, represented by the state minister behind the controversial agreement, as well.
The government's immediate surrender on many issues that he had raised over the last few years has undoubtedly whetted the opposition leader's passion to ferret out its other lapses.
"The people of Kerala are witness to the manner in which this government has been cornered repeatedly and have retreated as I raised serious charges,” he said.
Pre-poll surveys irksome
The opposition leader is annoyed with the media for the back-to-back pre-poll surveys that suggest the LDF will have smooth sailing in next month's state polls.
In each public meeting, the opposition leader describes the surveys being carried out by agencies from outside the state as part of a conspiracy to upstage people's opinion.
He reminds the people about the surveys that had gone horribly wrong in the past and peps up the crowds saying the real survey of the people is yet to come, referring to the Assembly elections on April 6 and the results on May 2.
In this context, Chennithala alleged that the tactics used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein in the media by using the corporates and spending crores of rupees are being adopted by Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala.
Chennithala goes all out against the money power being exercised by the CPM and the BJP during the ongoing poll campaign. "Nobody needs to feel dejected with the pre-poll survey results as the surveys were carried out as per the script handed out by the AKG Centre (the CPM headquarters). The people's survey is in favour of the UDF,” he hoped.
Fighting Congress fire
As a senior Congress leader Chennithala banks on a conciliatory approach to mollify sulking leaders. Their numbers are high this time as several veteran leaders have been refused the party nomination for contesting in the state polls owing to the generational shift attempted by way of candidate choices.
Chennithala calls veteran leaders over the phone as part of the management exercise to keep them on board. In the midst of his car trips in this regard, he was seen dialling DCC president and Kollam candidate Bindu Krishna to inform about the pastoral letter issued by the Diocese of Quilon on the controversial fishing deal that he had raised. He directs her to meet the Bishop personally and extend his support.
By the time the vehicle reaches Nilamel in the Chadayamangalam constituency for a family meeting, it is already noon. But the people are enthusiastic. The young supporters gathered at the venue gave Chennithala a huge round of applause.
Among the people who are waiting to welcome the opposition leader are KSU leader A R Nishad on whose back the SFI activists had forcibly drawn a tattoo by SFI activists of the University College, triggering a major controversy then.
The reception is organised at the native place of local candidate M M Nazeer. A Class-2 student comes on the stage to welcome the opposition leader. On the stage Kollam MP N K Premachandran is seated along with Prayar Gopalakrishnan who had once snatched the seat from LDF only once, creating history.
A big round of applause is heard from the section of the audience which comprise mainly youth when Chennithala referred to the recent protests seeking timely appointments to the Kerala government.
While criticising the government, he drew a parallel between Narendra Modi and Pinarayi Vijayan saying that the former was selling sky and the latter the sea.
He then goes on to speak about the treatment meted out to be faithful by the LDF Government. “The chief minister donned the false image of "Renaissance Leader" and cheated the Sabarimala devotees,” he noted.
The opposition leader then devotes time to explain the Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme, Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), which has been included in the UDF's election manifesto.
Through his spirited campaign during his campaign trail, Chennithala has managed to settle any doubts over the real UDF captain.
On his party's way of functioning, the Haripad MLA remarked: "The Congress does not follow Pinarayi's ways of behaving as if 'I am the state, I am the party."
Chennithala, who is a devout believer of Shiva, spends almost half an hour in prayers before venturing out for the day's campaign.
He would be spending only the last four days before the polling in his constituency. Prior to that, he will accompany national leaders Rahul Gandhi, who is currently in Kerala, and Priyanka Gandhi who is scheduled to visit Kerala later this week. Rahul is addressing a public meeting in the Haripad constituency on Monday.
From Chadayamangalam, Chennithala headed for Pathanamthitta district and then again towards north Kerala.
He strongly believes that by the time election fever reaches its peak, the state capital would be set to lay the red carpet for a government change.