Kochi: It was indeed a dance of democracy at Palarivattom in Kochi in Kerala on Sunday as major political fronts ended their nearly month-long public campaign for the Thrikkakara assembly by-election which will take Tuesday, May 31. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) clashed to make the climax of their election campaign a blitzkrieg.
LDF candidate Dr Jo Joseph waved to his supporters from the top of a crane while BJP’s AN Radhakrishnan balanced himself atop a JCB even as thousands of supporters from the three fronts converged towards Palarivattom waving large falgs, shouting slogans and dancing to the beat of their campaign. Songs. UDF candidate Uma Thomas opted for an open jeep in which she was accompanied by young Congress leaders and actor-filmmaker Ramesh Pisharody, a party supporter.
The more than three-week vigorous campaign for the assembly seat was kicked off on May 3 by the UDF announcing that the late Congress leader and widow of former Thrikkakara MP PT Thomas, Uma Thomas, would be their candidate for the seat of the assembly.
Hoping to retain the constituency, seen as a congressional stronghold, the UDF decided to field Thomas’ widow in an apparent attempt to capitalize on her late husband’s popularity and the sentiments surrounding his death.
Thomas’ death last December necessitated a by-election.
The LDF candidate, a prominent heart surgeon, surprised many who expected the Left Front to opt for a familiar face within their constituent parties.
There were also allegations from some quarters that Dr. Joseph had been chosen on the basis of Christian votes.
However, LDF denied all such allegations and rumors and said it planned to increase its tally at the assembly to 100.
In order to ensure that he hits that golden figure, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and all his cabinet ministers camped in Thrikkakara and went house to house even amid heavy rains that flooded Kochi , seeking support for their candidate.
Strong words were also exchanged between the LDF and UDF leaders during the campaign process with the KPCC Chairman and MP K Sudhakaran making unsavory remarks against the Chief Minister.
This also resulted in Sudhakaran being sentenced under Section 153 (gratuitous provocation with intent to cause a riot) of the Indian Penal Code based on a complaint filed by a local CPI(M) worker.
Dismissing the case, the UDF criticized the ruling government for taking such action when no such action had been taken in the past when Vijayan allegedly used objectionable words against his political rivals.
The LDF and UDF argued that the result of the partial poll would indicate the mood of the people regarding the governance of the left front so far, after it came to power last year for a second consecutive term, and public opinions regarding Project Silverline — a bone of contention between the two fronts.
The third candidate, veteran BJP leader and deputy chairman of the party, AN Radhakrishnan, created no controversy as he quietly navigated his campaign process.
The BJP campaign also got a last-minute boost from veteran politician PC George, who fended off police summons to appear for questioning in Thiruvananthapuram, and landed at the party camp in Thrikkakara to garner support of Radhakrishnan.
George, at a press conference held in Thrikkakara, criticized both the LDF and UDF and accused them of allowing radical and communal groups to operate in the state in order to gain power.
He also criticized CM Vijayan and the state police for action taken against him in two hate speech cases.
The veteran politician said action was taken against him due to the ongoing election campaign.
George also said that while Vijayan had done a lot of good work for the state in the past, the chief minister was now “incompetent, weak and forgetful” and he was sad to see him like this.
The contest for the vacant seat became a three-way affair after the AAP-Twenty20 alliance pulled out saying it would not participate in the partial poll because running a candidate has no political significance.
(With PTI entries)