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Stakes high for rival fronts in Kerala poll

Communist Party of India-Marxist is determined to retain a seat it surprisingly won in May this year.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2006 09:17 IST

Kerala's Thiruvambady constituency goes to the polls on December 4, with the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) determined to retain a seat it surprisingly won in May this year.

At Thiruvambady, a small village 40 km from the bustling city of Kozhikode, there is plenty of overt evidence that a concerted election campaign is underway between the main contenders.

The election was necessitated after CPI-M's Mathai Chacko, the May victor, died last month.

The stakes are high for both the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). The outcome will be seen as a verdict on the six-month-old VS Achuthanandan government.

The main candidates are George M Thomas of CPI-M and VM Ummer Master of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of UDF.

Also in the fray are Bharatiya Janata Party's Gireesh Thevally and three independents.

"Why do you ask who will win? The victory is ours!" asserts a seemingly confident opposition leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy who has been here for a week.

Chandy's confidence stems from what is perceived as a poor showing of the LDF regime.

Thiruvambady has been a traditional UDF stronghold since its formation in 1977 and was lost to LDF only in the May 2006 assembly polls. May saw a LDF sweep, the front winning 98 of the 140 assembly seats.

The CPI-M is appealing to people's emotions to give the party a second chance in the constituency.

"Now that Chacko is no more, it is an opportunity to achieve what he had planned for Thiruvambady," said CPI-M state secretary Pinnarayi Vijayan, addressing a late night election meeting in Thiruvambady.

In comparison to the anti-UDF feeling of May 2006, this time the situation appears different because Christians and Muslims, forming close to 55 percent of the electorate, are said to be unhappy with LDF.

A police raid at the Muringoor Retreat Centre, a hugely popular Christian Fellowship place near Trissur, has become a campaign.

The LDF's stand not to share a platform with former chief minister K Karunakaran although his party has merged with LDF member Nationalist Congress Party has brought cheer to the UDF camp.

But Karunakaran's son and state NCP president K Muraleedharan is aiming his guns at the UDF: "The UDF need not build castles in the air. This seat will never go to them."

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan is visiting Thiruvambady for two days. So will India's new Defense Minister AK Antony, a former Kerala chief minister.

"I have no problem if you want to see this election result as a verdict on my governance," says Achuthanandan.