KU Janeesh Kumar and Manu C Pulickal have a lot in common. Both are law graduates, former student activists, contemporaries in the Kerala CPM, state-level leaders in the party's youth wing and, come October 21, will face the people's mandate in their debut polls to the Kerala assembly.
However, Janeesh's Konni constituency holds an entirely different political history from Manu's Aroor. While the former's objective is to capture a constituency that has stood with the opposition Congress for 23 years, Manu is expected to retain a seat that has been a fort for the CPM for over a decade. Therefore, while one's strategy rests on criticising the stunted development and growth, the other is pitching for a renewed mandate for consistent progress. However, both expressed absolute confidence in a positive outcome on counting day.
"I am talking to voters about the LDF government's pro-people approach and development missions, along with exposing the shortcomings of the central government. The increasing hold of communalism in Indian society is also being discussed," Janeesh said.
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He said he has plans for the upliftment of all sections of the society. "Konni constituency is home to a sizeable agrarian population. Many migrant farmers here are yet to receive their title deeds while some others face constant cropland invasion from wild animals. Finding a solution to these two issues is one of my priorities," he explained.
The 36-year-old added that there is no doubt that the long-pending work relating to the Konni Medical College will be completed before the LDF government's tenure comes to an end.
Just like Janeesh, Manu is also pinning hopes on the achievements of the state government. "We all know what has happened to the Palarivattom flyover under the UDF regime. They are corrupt to the core and can't champion the development dreams of Kerala. Hence it is a must that the LDF rule continues," he said.
Explaining his campaign strategy, he added, "AM Ariff had started projects worth over Rs 1000 crore in the constituency before being elected to Parliament. For example, the construction of numerous important bridges like the ones at Vayalar Info Park and Kaakkathuruthu have been completed while the Chief Minister himself attended the construction inauguration of the Rs 96-crore worth Perumpalam bridge. Thuravoor hospital, complete electrification and introduction of smart classrooms are some other projects that are being welcomed by the people of Aroor irrespective of political lineage."
Backing Manu, Alappuzha Lok Sabha MP and ex-Aroor legislator AM Ariff said the UDF is deliberately hindering projects introduced by him and the people of Aroor will not give their mandate to a party with such a mindset.
"The Kerala government is joining hands with Google at the Pallippuram Info Park to create more job opportunities. I have been organising job fairs in the constituency and now Manu will take over," he said.
The duo also rubbished the opposition claim that the trend of the Lok Sabha polls, in which the Congress-led UDF bagged 19 out of 20 seats, will be repeated in the bypolls.
Manu said the voting pattern differs in assembly and Parliamentary polls, adding that the results from the just-concluded byelection in Pala show how the electoral climate has changed in the state.
"When I became Aroor MLA in 2006, the UDF enjoyed a lead of over 8000 votes in the Lok Sabha polls. They increased it to 11,000 in 2011 but still, I managed a majority of over 38,500 votes in 2016. This constituency has always favoured the UDF during Lok Sabha polls and LDF for the assembly," Ariff said.
Apart from Janeesh and Manu, the CPM has fielded one more youngster in the poll fray with Thiruvananthapuram Corporation mayor VK Prasanth contesting from the high-profile Vattiyoorkavu constituency.