As the election season heats up in Kerala, Kannur, a politically sensitive district in the Malabar, is gearing up for a series of crackling contests across its assembly segments.
In the 2011 elections, in what is considered to be a Left bastion, Kannur saw a surprise of sorts when the Congress-led UDF rallied to win in 5 out of 11 seats. Remember, this is a region that saw the birth of the Communist movement in the state and has been home to some of the most celebrated leaders of the Left including AK Gopalan and EK Nayanar. That year, political observers saw the result as a splintering of the Left strength in Kannur – a district where it believed it can never go wrong.
Kannur has also been infamous over the years for its bloody streak of political violence between CPI(M) and RSS activists, mostly arising out of defections and at times of polling. In 2008, after a string of murders, the Kerala High Court asked for Centre’s intervention in a place where manslaughter is a ‘competing sport.’
The prospects for the Left in Kannur look good after it won back support in the 2014 parliamentary elections and the 2015 local body polls. But it won’t be an easy task. There are a number of constituencies where the LDF and UDF are locked in close fights.
One of them is Azhikode where the Left has fielded popular Malayalam news anchor MV Nikesh Kumar as an independent candidate. Nikesh, who is the son of late CMP leader MV Raghavan, is making his electoral debut and is up against incumbent MLA KM Shaji who had won last time by a narrow margin of 493 votes. While Shaji is hoping that the voters would remember his development works in the district, for Nikesh the aim is to win back the seat that has traditionally stood by the Left.
However, in Irikkur, it’s a different story line that’s taking shape. The question that’s everyone asking is how many times can a person fight? Incumbent MLA KC Joseph, a minister in the Oommen Chandy government, has been elected seven times from the seat and is seeking an eighth term. There were a lot of demands from the district administration to nominate someone else, but the powerful Chandy faction prevailed and gave Joseph the ticket. The anger has reached such an extent that Congress leaders are preparing to fight as independents.
Koothuparambu is another seat which the Left hopes to wrest from the Congress. Home to powerful CPM unit secretary P Jayarajan, who was named as an accused by the CBI in the murder of political activist Ariyil Shukkoor and barred from entering the district, Koothuparambu will see a neck-to-neck fight between sitting Congress MLA KP Mohanan and KK Shailaja, the CPM nominee. But the bigger story in Koothuparambu is the candidature of Sadanandan Master from the BJP. In 1994, both legs of Sadanandan Master, then an RSS activist, were chopped off by alleged CPM activists. Today, Sadanandan campaigns in the constituency as a victim of the atrocities committed by the Left.
Dharmadam will see Pinarayi Vijayan, one of the CM contenders of the Left, making his electoral return against M Divakaran of the Congress. In the Kannur seat, Kadannapilly Ramachandran is the LDF candidate against Satheesan Pacheni of the UDF.
While most of the opinion polls have given a distinct edge to the LDF in the elections, there is no doubt that Kannur, with its large share of 11 seats, will be crucial for the Left parties in their road to power.