Congress president Rahul Gandhi will kick off the United Democratic Front’s election campaign in Kochi today. He will address a convention of party booth presidents and vice-presidents in the evening and meet leaders of alliance partners. He is expected to reply to some of the charges made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had addressed two rallies in Kerala in two weeks. Some Lok Sabha constituencies in the state are likely face a stiff three-cornered contest this time against the background of the controversy over the entry of women into the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. Out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state the Congress-led UDF won 12 and CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front bagged eight in the 2014 general elections.The Congress had come under flak after Rahul Gandhi said he backed the stand of Kerala unit of the party opposing the entry of women in the 10 to 50 age group in the Sabarimala temple even though he personally held a contrary view. The Congress leadership was initially reluctant to oppose the entry of women into the temple but was forced to change its stand after state leaders convinced them that party workers could switch over to the BJP in large numbers if it remained silent. The party feels that its strategic position on the issue will benefit them. The BJP has been supporting the opposition to women’s entry into the temple.Both the BJP and the Congress are protesting against Kerala government, which is finding it difficult to implement September 28 order of the Supreme Court allowing entry of women of all age in the Sabarimala temple.“It is an important battle for us. We will concentrate more on anti-people policies of the state and central governments. The inept handling of the Sabarimala issue and flood situation will be raised during the campaign vigorously,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.This is the first time a convention of booth presidents is being convened. The PCC has 20,000 booths and vice-presidents of all booths have been reserved for women. This is the first time Gandhi is addressing leaders from the grassroots level, said KPCC working president Kodikunnil Suresh. AICC general secretary in-charge of Kerala Mukul Vasnik hsa been campaigning in the state for a week.There are reports the party may field former CM Oommen Chandy from either from Kottayam or Idukki seat. But sources close to him said he’s unlikely to quit his assembly seat because in 2020 he would complete 50 years as an MLA without an electoral defeat. Party insiders say there will a distinct ‘Rahul touch’ to candidates’ list this time. Younger candidates and women are likely to find prominence while some seniors are expected to be benched.