Know Your Candidate: In Thrissur, saffron star meets seasoned Congressman & popular comrade

Onmanorama's Know Your Candidate (KYC) captures the changing trends in a constituency, the pulse of the voters from the ground and gauges candidates' chances.

K Muraleedharan
K Muraleedharan looked weather-beaten as he was busy winding up the first session of his campaign in Thrissur on Sunday. The rising temperature had taken a toll on him as he reached Kuriachira junction around noon. He lacked the vigour he often shows when making strongly-worded witty political remarks. But he remained composed like a man who has seen it all. A tough fight is nothing new to him -- Vadakara in 2019 and Nemom in 2021 were no different. In Vadakara he emerged winner and in Nemom, he was the disruptor who decided the winner. In Thrissur, his role is yet to be clear. Whispers from all corners echo the mainstream narrative – a tough three-way fight is on.
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At corner meetings, Muraleedharan, like everyone in the fray, delivers his short, prepared speech. He attacks both the Narendra Modi regime at the Centre and Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state. He says that he is seeking votes for Rahul Gandhi and the INDIA alliance. He tells them the INDIA alliance will come to power, but he doesn’t sound convincing enough. Being in Thrissur, a constituency with a sizeable Christian population, Murali makes it a point to make Manipur a poll plank. “Modi has time to visit Thrissur several times, but not Manipur” -- thus goes Murali’s punchline. He also makes fun of the ‘Modi’s guarantee’ to gift Thrissur a Union minister. BJP candidate Suresh Gopi’s posters and hoardings flaunt the claim. “How many Union ministers are you going to make from Kerala? You already have two ministers in the fray. Then in Pathanamthitta, you make the same claim,” Murali says.

Murali is no T N Prathapan when it comes to campaigning. Prathapan, the sitting MP who was dropped from the candidate list at the last minute, is keen to get closer to the crowd. He hugs or gives a soft, friendly punch to his voters in a bid to make contact with them. Murali shuns such theatrics. He restricts himself to a gentle shake of the hand with those who come close or greet him with a shawl. To others, he waves his hands. Occasionally, he requests in a humble voice – “I need all of your help”.
Read Also: Know Your Candidate | Teacher vs charmer fight wows Vadakara

Suresh Gopi
Suresh Gopi reached Kunnathumkara, an LDF pocket some five km from Thrissur town, around 5.30 pm on April 7, Sunday. The BJP had organised a ‘kudumbayogam’ (meet of families) there. Before the star arrived a local woman leader spoke at length about the Modi government’s achievements, effectively saving the candidate’s time. Clad in jeans and a yellow floral print shirt, Suresh Gopi was careful to shed the typical candidate vibe. He chose not to climb the makeshift stage and instead took the mike in his hands standing down.

His short speech is more emotional than political. He urges the small crowd to vote for their land. He requests them to give him a chance even if as a one-time experiment. He asks them to learn from the neighbouring Tamil Nadu where political parties never make a compromise on the state’s development on ideological lines.

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“Did your decision – the decision of which some of you were also part – during the last assembly and parliament elections get due honour? You just have to think that much,” Suresh Gopi tells the audience.

While leaving the venue, Suresh Gopi tries to make a personal connection with as many people as possible, shaking hands and accepting requests for selfies. A middle-aged man told the star candidate he had even put a bet on his life because he was so sure that the latter would win this time. To him and those around him, Suresh Gopi had some advice -- “Never lose your life for anything. You have to protect it.”

V S Sunil Kumar
On the campaign ground, Sunil Kumar lives up to what is talked and written about him. He easily looks like one among the small crowds of comrades who welcome him at corner meetings.

He arrives in an open jeep and delivers his campaign speech straight away. The content is crisp and clear. He echoes the Left’s narrative that this election is all about protecting the democracy and secularism of the republic. Towards the end, he brings in a local and personal flavour to the campaign.

“This is the first time I am contesting the Lok Sabha elections. But I was an MLA from different constituencies in the district. I also got the opportunity to be the Agriculture Minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet during 2016-21. I believe I was able to deliver my duties as earnestly as possible,” he says.

He gets off the jeep after the speech. The comrades garland him with red ribbons and gift him with fruits and vegetables – a common sight during the Left candidates’ campaign trail of late. When a little girl gifted him a basket full of yellowish mangoes, the former minister couldn’t hide his excitement. “Ripe enough to eat,” he said, triggering a small round of laughter.

He spares time for selfies and leaves none dejected. At Purakkattukunnu in Irinjalakuda constituency, he surprised everyone when he asked a youngster to take a selfie with all who had gathered there in the frame. When an old man, evidently excited, got near the candidate and told him he was a daily wager, Sunil Kumar was swift to respond – “you are our own”.

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