With hardly a week left for the April 16 polls, an all out battle is on in Kottayam Lok Sabha constituency with three-time CPI(M) MP K Suresh Kurup locking horns with young Jose K Mani of the Kerala congress (M), a partner of the Congress-led UDF.
Kurup, an advocate, who won the seat with a margin of 42,914 votes in the 2004 elections, is facing a stiff challenge this time from Mani, political heir of veteran KCM leader K M Mani. Kurup had earlier represented the constituency in 1999, and 1998.
The constituency, with the highest number of 20 contestants in the state, including N K Narayanan of BJP, is the home turf of senior Mani, a former minister, and former Chief Minister and leader of the opposition Ommen Chandy.
Capitalising on the strong base of the Congress and KCM, the UDF has hit the campaign trail far ahead of the LDF. KCM has a strong base in Pala, Kaduthuruthy, Ettumannur and Piravom assembly segments, while the Congress is strong in Vaikkom, Kottayam, Puthupally segments.
The 17 other candidates in the fray include some with names similar to that of the two main canidates, giving nightmares to both the LDF and UDF.
There are five 'Suresh Kurups' and two Jose Manis', one of them a taxi driver from Delhi who flew to Kerala to file in his nomination papers. The long line up of the candidates, has necessiated the use of two ballot units in each of the Electronic Voting machines (EVMs) in every polling centre.