PALA: Poll fever is rising with each passing day in Pala constituency, one of the keenly-watched seats in the state in this election. Here, stakes are high for both LDF and UDF.For Kerala Congress (M)’s Jose K Mani, who is now in the LDF fold, winning the seat held by his father the late K M Mani for a record 13 terms, is crucial as it would prove he was right in switching sides.
For sitting MLA Mani C Kappan, who left LDF and floated his own party to join UDF after he was denied a chance to fight from Pala, winning is important to retain the seat that he won in the September 2019 bypoll following the demise of K M Mani.
J Prameela Devi, former women’s panel member, is trying to win Pala for NDA.
“It seems Kappan has an edge. Jose may not get even the full votes of CPM as a section in the party is yet to come to terms with his entry into the LDF,” said Jayan, an autorickshaw driver in Ramapuram town, a part of Pala assembly constituency. He said though Prameela may get a good number of votes, she may not be able to make an impact.
“None can predict the poll outcome as both UDF and LDF candidates are strong. Kappan is the sitting MLA. However, we cannot ignore KC(M)’s influence in Pala,” said Prajeesh, a youngster. While the fight seems neck-and-neck, recent faux pas by Jose and his party members have put the party on the defensive. Jose, who had recently said ‘love jihad’ is a reality in state, had to backtrack on his comments following pressure from the LDF camp. Adding to his woes was the clash between KC(M) and CPM councillors during a meeting of the Left-ruled Pala municipality on March 31.
While the 2020 local body election results in Kottayam proved favourable for Jose with LDF winning the Pala municipality for the first time ever, there are some who believe he would not have an impact this time.
“Jose can never be compared to his father. His claims on the local body poll results are baseless. CPM workers would not vote for him,” said Sabu, a hotel owner in Melukavumattam. He said Kappan will increase his victory margin to more than 20,000 votes.LDF is projecting the continuance of its regime riding on the welfare schemes implemented by the Pinarayi Vijayan government.
However, Sabu says, “LDF will not return to power. Though Mani C Kappan was the Pala MLA for just 16 months, he brought development worth `462 crore,” he said. The fact that LDF complained about the postponement of Rajya Sabha polls also showed it is not confident of a win in this election.
Things are entirely different in Pala town, a KC(M) citadel. Party flags adorn the streets and graffiti and posters of candidates can be seen in every wall. “Jose will win. He is like his father. Pala is traditionally a KC(M) bastion and with CPM’s support, he can win easily,” said Siby, an autorickshaw driver at Pala auto stand. Jomon John, a vlogger, who was seen capturing Pala town on his mobile phone, said all the 10 people he met said Jose will win. “At the same time, they admitted it was neck-and-neck race,” he said.