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Only a miracle can undo it

The two LS seats of Ponnani and Manjeri in Kerala's Muslim heartland have been sending IUML members for so long that people believe only a miracle can change that trend.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Malappuram, Kerala
PUBLISHED ON APR 12, 2004 01:38 PM IST

The political lore of Kerala has it that only a miracle can bring the defeat of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Ponnani and Manjeri.

Such is the track record of the two Lok Sabha seats in the Muslim heartland from where IUML all-India general secretary E Ahmed and former UDF chief whip KPA Majeed are seeking election.

Fully aware of the arduous task on hand, the LDF candidates TK Hamsa of the CPI-M and PP Suneer of CPI are making unsparing efforts to re-write the electoral history of Manjeri and Ponnani.

Cutting across vast thickly-populated rural stretches of Malappuram and Kozhikode districts, Manjeri has the unique distinction of sending only Muslim League nominees since 1952. The party has this time fielded Majeed in Manjeri.

Ahmed, who won from Manjeri with a huge margin of over 1.23 lakh votes last time, has been shifted to Ponnani replacing the party's all-India president GM Bannatwala.

Encompassing the Mappila heartland of Eranad and parts of Valluvanad region and famed for the anti-British uprising of 1921, Ponnani too had remained loyal to the Muslim League ever since 1977 when the seat was de-reserved. Bannatwala had won the seat with huge margins since 1971, except in 1991 when the constituency was allotted to Ibrahim Suleiman Sait.

Registering steady growth over the years, the BJP has put up Uma Unni in Manjeri and N Aravindan in Ponnani.

The saffron party is making last year's Marad violence, which claimed lives of eight persons belonging Hindu fishermen community, as a major poll plank. The coastal hamlet which witnessed the carnage falls in Beypore assembly segment in Manjeri Lok Sabha seat.

The CPI-M has an astute campaigner in Hamsa in Manjeri, a former state minister known for his uncanny oratorial skill by talking to the people in commonman's parlance.

The region's economic and social backwardness, UDF government's failure to assuage the ruffled feelings of the minority community in the wake of Marad incident and the need for enhanced presence of the Left in parliament to fight the Hindutva forces are the main campaign themes of the CPI-M and CPI in the two seats.

The campaigners for youthful Suneer of CPI, taking on the League stalwart Ahmed in Ponnani, is making all out efforts to pose a credible challenge to IUML dominance. The CPI had polled 35 per cent votes last time.

Taking the LDF challenge lightly, Ahmed said the party's might and the electorates' appreciation of the work he has done would help improve the winning margin this time.

The League campaigners also say that the politically alert voters in the region are aware of the need to bring to power a democratic secular alliance led by the Congress to check the Hindutva forces.

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