KOCHI: The gateway to the high ranges, Kothamangalam is among the constituencies traditionally known as a UDF citadel. However, in 2016, the CPM broke into the fortress by fielding a party candidate after the P J Joseph group had exited from the LDF. A young Antony John delivered for the CPM defeating two-time legislator T U Kuruvila of the KC(M) by a margin of 19,282 votes.
With the sitting MLA contesting again, the LDF is expecting an encore. His constituency visit has been completed and the LDF camp believes that Antony deserves to be confident of a victory.“As an MLA, Antony John has performed commendably. During the constituency visit, voters accorded him a warm reception. Moreover, the rival camp has fielded a fresher who is facing various allegations,” said R Anilkumar, LDF mandalam convener.
Meanwhile, the UDF camp observes that Shibu Thekkumpuram of the Kerala Congress will help recapture the seat from the CPM. “It is after sensing the positive vibes created by Shibu that the LDF is coming up with various allegations against the UDF candidate. They are baseless. The fear of defeat has even prompted the LDF to resort to unhealthy practices like disrupting our campaign meeting,” said Babu Alias, Congress mandalam secretary.
He was referring to the incident in which LDF and UDF workers clashed on Monday. “The incident happened while the UDF meet was going on at the Basil School ground. While the narrow road leading to TB Hills was filled with UDF workers, the LDF candidate’s vehicle rally arrived. They started playing songs in high volume and shouted slogans intending to disrupt our meeting. They even tried to provoke our supporters,” added Babu.
Anilkumar retorted, saying the UDF leaders tried to aggravate the situation instead of calling their workers back. “We finalised the bike rally and route of the constituency visit only after discussing with local UDF leaders. However, they tried to manhandle our party workers,” he said.Another threat that the UDF is facing is the presence of Joe Joseph, the Twenty20 candidate, who is the son-in-law of P J Joseph, the Kerala Congress chairman.
While the Joseph group has fielded its candidate in Kothamangalam, his close relative’s presence as a Twenty20 candidate is something that the UDF will have to tackle efficiently. The NDA, which has allotted the seat to Shine K Krishnan of the BDJS, is likely to improve his vote share in the event of a consolidation of Hindu votes. In the 2016 assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the NDA had received 10 per cent of the total votes polled.