Candidates climb atop crane and JCB as high-pitch campaign for Thrikkakara bypoll ends

(From left) Congress candidate Uma Thomas, CPM's Dr Jo Joseph and BJP's A N Radhakrishnan wave at their supporters amid the culmination of the high-decibel campaign for the Thrikkakara bypoll.

Kochi: It was indeed a dance of democracy at Palarivattom in Kerala's Kochi on Sunday as the major political fronts ended their nearly one-month public campaigning for the Thrikkakara assembly bypoll which will take place on Tuesday (May 31). The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) vied with each other to make the culmination of their electioneering a blitzkrieg.

LDF candidate Dr Jo Joseph waved at his supporters from the top of a crane while BJP's A N Radhakrishnan balanced himself atop a JCB even as thousands of followers of the three fronts converged at Palarivattom waving tall falgs, shouting slogans and dancing to the tune of their campaign songs. UDF candidate Uma Thomas opted for an open jeep on which she was accompanied by young Congress leaders and actor-filmmaker Ramesh Pisharody, a party supporter.

The over three-week long energetic campaigning for the assembly seat was kicked off on May 3 by the UDF by announcing that late Congress leader and former Thrikkakara MLA P T Thomas' widow Uma Thomas would be their candidate for the assembly seat.

Hoping to retain the constituency, which is considered a Congress stronghold, UDF decided to field Thomas' widow in an apparent bid to bank on her late husband's popularity and the sentiments connected to his death.

Thomas' death in December last year necessitated holding of the by-poll.

LDF candidate, a prominent heart surgeon, came as a surprise for many who expected that the Left front would opt for some familiar face from within their constituent parties.

There were also allegations from some quarters that Dr Joseph was chosen with an eye on the Christian votes.

However, LDF denied all these allegations and rumours, and said it expected to increase its tally in the assembly to 100.

In order to ensure it attains that golden figure, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and all the ministers of his cabinet were camped at Thrikkakara and going house to house, even amidst the heavy rains that flooded Kochi, seeking support for their candidate.

Some strong words were also exchanged between leaders of the LDF and UDF during the campaign process with KPCC president and MP K Sudhakaran making some unsavoury remarks against the Chief Minister.

It also led to Sudhakaran being booked under Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code based on a complaint lodged by a local CPI(M) worker.

Rejecting the case, UDF criticised the ruling government for taking such a step when no such action was taken in the past when Vijayan had allegedly used objectionable words against his political rivals.

Both the LDF and UDF have been contending that the outcome of the by-poll would indicate the people's mindset regarding the governance of the Left front till now, after it came to power last year for a second consecutive term, and the public's views regarding the Silverline project -- a bone of contention between the two fronts.

The third contestant, veteran BJP leader and the party's state vice president A N Radhakrishnan did not create any controversies as he quietly went about his campaigning process.

The BJP campaign also got a last minute boost through veteran politician P C George, who snubbed police summons to appear for questioning at Thiruvananthapuram, and landed at the party camp in Thrikkakara to garner support for Radhakrishnan.

George, in a press conference held at Thrikkakara, criticised both the LDF and UDF and accused them of permitting radical and communal groups to operate in the state in order to gain power.

He also criticised CM Vijayan and the state police for the action taken against him in two hate speech cases.

The veteran politician said the action was taken against him in view of the ongoing election campaign.

George also said that while Vijayan has done a lot of good work for the state in the past, the Chief Minister was now "incompetent, weak and forgetful" and it was sad to see him like this.

The contest for the vacant seat became a three-way affair after the AAP-Twenty20 alliance backed out saying they would not be contesting in the by-poll as fielding a candidate does not have any political significance.

(With inputs from PTI)

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