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Foreign issues top priority in Kerala

In the Muslim-dominated region, which goes to the polls on Apr 29, local issues are passe, reports Ramesh Babu.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 18:36 IST

Which side are you on, Bush or Iran? In the Muslim-dominated northern region of Kerala, which goes to the polls on April 29, local issues are passé.

In Malabar, international issues have edged out local concerns. Stakes are high for the warring fronts.

The ruling Congress-led UDF and the opposition LDF are locked in a neck-and-neck battle in 66 constituencies spread over six districts, where the latter has got a clear edge.

Besides the chief minister aspirant and opposition leader in the assembly VS Achuthanandan, all the top leaders of the Muslim League, the second largest UDF partner, including controversial leader PK Kunhalikutty and four ministers of the party are in the fray.

Achuthanandan's rival for the CM's post in the CPI(M) that leads the LDF, Paloli Mohammed Kutty is contesting Ponnani seat in Malappuram district where former minister MP Gangadharan fielded by DIC(K) is the UDF candidate.

In Kuttipuram, Kunhalikutty, who had to resign as a minister after the infamous ice cream parlour sex scandal, is locked in a fierce battle with his one-time disciple KT Jaleel, an LDF-backed independent.

Besides the sex scandal involving a minor girl, international issues like the India's vote against Iran and nuclear co-operation with the US are poll issues here.

Minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed's statement clarifying India's vote against Iran did not go down well here.

In Mankada, it won't be a cakewalk for IUML candidate and PWD minister MK Muneer. Sitting legislator Manjaramkuzhi Ali, fielded by the LDF as an independent, is trying his best to retain the seat.

Another keenly watched constituency is Koduvally in the Kozhikode district where Karunakaran's son and DIC(K) president K Muraleedharan is facing a tough challenge from Muslim League rebel PTA Raheem.

The son's return to the UDF fold after breaking away from the Congress did little to help UDF as his father continued sniping at Oommen Chandy during electioneering.