In the early stages of counting on Sunday, Metro Man E Sreedharan cruised like an express train through Palakkad municipality, reminding many of the famous rabbit and turtle story.
His opponents struggled to catch up with him. His margin kept on increasing when the counting progressed in the municipality. It was 1,000 in the morning and went on to touch close to 6,000 by noon.
But he lost steam as the counting of votes from Kannadi, Pirayiri and Mathur gram panchayats began.
This helped his nearest rival and incumbent legislator Shafi Parambil to catch up.
By 2pm, Shafi first took a 300-vote lead. The margin widened steadily and by 4pm, Shafi took the race beyond Sreedharan's reach with a margin of 3,544 votes.
"People of Palakkad elected me and I am indebted to them. After the counting got over, I spoke to my opponents – E Sreedharan and CP Pramod – and they offered me all support for Palakkad’s development," Shafi said after his victory.
The fight for Palakkad became intense after the entry of E Sreedharan, popularly known as Metro Man, as the NDA candidate.
Many thought that he would deny Shafi a hat-trick win and would help Bharatiya Janata Party win Palakkad, where the party finished second in the 2016 election. The saffron party, at one point, even projected Sreedharan as the Chief Minister candidate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing his election rally at Palakkad, said Sreedharan’s BJP entry would help the party grow in Kerala.
Technical prowess vs political experience
On the campaign front, Sreedharan urged the voters to elect him as he could use his technical prowess to steer development in Palakkad.
Shafi countered it saying his political experience is important to bring development to the constituency.
Shafi's appeal appears to have won over the voters as the Youth Congress leader romped home comfortably for a hat-trick win.
His first victory came in 2011 when he defeated CPM’s KK Divakaran by 7,403 votes. He was re-elected in 2016 with a win over BJP’s Shobha Surendran by 17,483 votes.
Though Sreedharan succeeded in connecting with the voters by stressing on the development plank, he appeared to have lost the trust of minority and secular voters because of his wayward statements on beef and love jihad.
Sreedharan had said that he has an aversion for beef eaters and Love Jihad is a reality in Kerala. Love Jihad is a term coined by right-wing outfits to allege a conspiracy by Muslim men to marry women from other religions solely to convert them to Islam.