THRISSUR: Thrissur, the land of poorams. Mighty elephants, decorated parasols, rhythmic ensembles, high-octane fireworks and sea of people are the trademarks associated with Kerala’s cultural capital, which holds some of the most extravagant festivals in the state.
The district has no permanent loyalty to any political front, and has held the humblest of laymen and the tallest of leaders close to its heart. It also has a history of voting against stalwarts like K Karunakaran (in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections) and his son K Muraleedharan (1998).
Recently, however, Thrissur has been showing some inclination towards the Left. After the 2001 elections which saw the UDF pocketing 12 out of the (then) 14 constituencies in the district, it has never had an upper hand in the assembly elections here. The last assembly polls in 2016 saw LDF sweep the district, winning 12 of 13 seats. The lone seat UDF won was by a 43-vote margin.
In Thrissur, where an intense three-cornered fight is on the cards, actor-turned-MP Suresh Gopi is pitted against Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of Karunakaran, and CPI candidate P Balachandran. It would not be a surprise if Suresh Gopi emerges as a dark horse.
Irinjalakuda, Chalakudy, Thrissur, Guruvayur and Wadakkanchery are the constituencies where the UDF pins its hopes, whereas LDF expectations are high in segments including Pudukkad, Ollur, Manalur, Nattika, Chelakkara, Kaipamangalam, Kunnamkulam and Kodungallur.
However, changes in the last lap are likely as BJP votes could prove the game-changer. For instance in 2016, the LDF candidate won Irinjalakuda — usually a sure seat for the UDF — after the BJP candidate secured around 31,000 votes. In Guruvayur, BJP’s candidature is srill unsure as its nomination was rejected.
In Wadakkanchery — the epicentre of the Life Mission controversy, the LDF machinery is trying hard to trounce the UDF candidate. Left’s loss here would be considered as a mandate against the government in the Life row. The last local body polls saw LDF regaining its upper hand in the Wadakkanchery municipality and panchayats nearby.
Political observer N Sreekumar pointed out that the grassroot-level organisational machinery of Congress in the district is not efficient enough to raise the stakes of Congress, which is the main problem faced by the UDF in Thrissur. “Even UDF doesn’t expect an upper hand here. But the votes secured by BJP will be crucial. They even have enough potential to overturn the fate of some candidates,” he said.