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VATAKARA

The politically sensitive Vatakara LS seat in north Kerala is this time witnessing a keen tussle between two women aspirants - CPI-M's P Sathidevi and MT Padma of the Congress.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Kozhikode, Kerala
PUBLISHED ON APR 16, 2004 04:40 PM IST

The politically sensitive Vatakara Lok Sabha seat in north Kerala is this time witnessing a keen tussle between two women aspirants - CPI-M's P Sathidevi and MT Padma of the Congress.

A frontline leader of CPI-M's women wing, Sathidevi is entrusted with the task of defending the seat's Leftist tradition.

Refusing to be disheartened by electoral history of the area equally known for its martial arts and folklore tradition and political volatility, Padma and her colleagues are making their best efforts to break the jinx haunting the Congress for over two decades.

A Communist and Socialist hotbed since the days of freedom movement, Congress could win the seat only twice in Vatakara's electoral history - in 1971 and 1977.

Interestingly, it was former union minister KP Unnikrishnan who kept the Congress flag high in Vatakara on both the occasions. Unnikrishnan, who later became a leading figure of the non-Congress fronts, kept on winning the seat till 1991 with the Marxist support, but bite the dust in 1996 when he tried his electoral fortune after rejoining the Congress.

Vatakara had returned CPI-M's Prof MK Premajam in 1998 and 99.

Thanks to the well-oiled campaign machinery of the CPI-M, Sathidevi had a headstart in the run-up in the predominantly rural constituency comprising seven segments cutting through parts of Kozhikode and Kannur districts.

Initial uncertainties on candidature and inner-strife in the Congress had denied 'the early bird' advantage to Padma, a former state minister and a known Karunakaran camper.

In 1999, Padma had unsuccessfully contested against CPI-M's NN Krishnadas in Palakkad.

The cease fire in factional strife effected at the top level of the party is yet to percolate down to the rank and file.

The Congress campaign managers, however, hope that the present inertia would be overcome after the 'Vishu' on April 14. "Now we are concentrating on workers' conventions. A sense of urgency to stay united have begun to be felt by the cadres," a Congress functionary from the area said.

Widow of former CPI-M Kozhikode district secretary late M Dasan, Sathidevi is a reputed campaigner of women's issues in the state. She, however, had lost assembly poll in Kozhikode in 2001.

A major coconut belt of the state, a key campaign theme of the LDF is crash in prices of agriculture produce due to economic policies pursued by the Congress and NDA governments at the Centre since 1991.

The Congress, on the other hand, was maintaining that only a party-led alliance could bring down the saffronite party at the Centre.

BJP, having some pockets of influence in the area, has fielded this time PK Sreeshan, former state president of Yuva Morcha. The party was polled over 65,000 votes in 1999, is making best efforts to improve performance.

Vatakara is one of the few areas in the state where the LDF withstood the powerful UDF wave in 2001 assembly polls conceding just one of the seven assembly segments falling under the Lok Sabha seat.

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