Updated: March 17, 2021 7:09:46 am
The campaign slogan of the Left Democratic Front is strung up all across this constituency in Kannur district: “Surely, it is LDF.” But, here and elsewhere, there is one star of this campaign: and surely, it is Pinarayi Vijayan.
The 75-year-old has started campaigning in Dharmadam, amidst full-size posters featuring him, slogans calling him ‘The Captain’, campaign material highlighting his government’s measures, including developmental projects and welfare schemes such as pension and food provisions since the Covid lockdown, and graffiti that only has his face.
Vijayan is expected, of course, to sail through. Dharmadam is a Left bastion, including Parapram village where the Communist Party held its first meeting in Kerala back in 1939. Vijayan won last time against Congress candidate Mambaram Divakaran by 36,000-odd votes.
The Chief Minister’s task has been made easier by the fact that the Congress which is contesting Dharmadam as part of the UDF, after the Forward Bloc pulled out, is yet to find a candidate. The BJP’s C K Padmanabhan hasn’t started canvassing.
The Congress’s office in Pottanpara village tells the story of the crisis facing the party. Weeds have overrun the compound of the building, which has been closed for months.
Vijayan is addressing his third meeting of the day at a ground behind the office, and a few hundred people are gathered to hear him. Like his no-nonsense image, the rally is devoid of the rambunctiousness of poll meetings. Vijayan arrives to barely any slogan-shouting, a local politician abruptly ends his address, and the CM proceeds to precisely lay out his points. “Now people say projects happen in Kerala. Those projects destined to be abandoned have been realised. There is a change on the development front,” he says.
Vijayan doesn’t make any reference to the Opposition’s claims of scandals against his government, but accuses the BJP and UDF of lies. “One thing is certain, we haven’t done anything that hurts your faith,” he says, adding that the Kerala election is being watched across the country. “Forces trying to shatter secularism have been gaining clout. Only the Left is uncompromising on secularism. The Congress and BJP are proponents of globalisation. Kerala is the only Left island in the country,” the CPM leader says.
At Parapram, a frail old Yeshoda is among those queued at the ration shop to get the free kit of essential provisions. “I want the Vijayan government again in Kerala,” she says, going on to list why. “The kit and ration supply last me nearly a month. I get the widow pension which Vijayan increased to Rs 1,600 a month. Last week, I completed 100 days under the MNREGS.”
Senior CPI leader C N Chandran, who is overseeing the LDF campaign in the constituency, says the Congress’ failure to find a candidate “shows it cannot put up a fight against Vijayan”. Dharmadam didn’t feature in the list released by the Congress on Tuesday as well.
Senior Congress leader M M Hassan —who is said to have forged the understanding with the Jamaat-e-Islami during the local body elections which is blamed by many for the party’s poor performance — says, “We are trying to find a candidate in Dharmadam. The Congress will contest.”