Minister, doctor, veteran woo Kerala's capital (Election Special)
A minister, a doctor and a political veteran are all set to do battle for Kerala's capital in the Lok Sabha polls.
Thiruvananthapuram is steeped in rich legacy as far as Kerala's politics is concerned. This has been the one constituency in the state where giants have both won and been humbled - a thought that Shashi Tharoor of the Congress, Bennet Abraham of the CPI and veteran BJP leader O. Rajagopal who have pitched their hats in the Thiruvananthapuram ring would be chewing on.
Among the giants who have won here are former chief ministers K.Karunakaran and P.K. Vasudevan Nair besides former Indian defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon.
The list of losers include the likes of Pattom Thanu Pillai, the prime minister of the erstwhile princely kingdom of Travancore and chief minister of Travancore-Cochin before Kerala came into being and who went on to become chief minister. He, however, lost the Lok Sabha polls in 1957.
Another high-profile loser was the legendary Communist M.N. Govindan Nair who once won but lost later.
Another factor in Thiruvananthapuram is that it's the only constituency out of the state's 20 which is expected to see a tri-cornered fight - both in letter and spirit.
While the Congress and CPI candidates are formidable, Rajagopal, a minister of state in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government at the centre (as a Rajya Sabha member), is even tipped to open the BJP's parliamentary account in Kerala with a win in God's Own Country.
The BJP first made its real presence felt in this constituency during the 1998 polls, when its candidate Kerala Varma Raja secured 94,303 votes - around 12 percent of the total.
But in the very next year, when Rajagopal contested from here for the first time, he secured a healthy 21 percent of the votes (158,221) and in 2004, he finished a close third by getting 29.86 percent of the votes (228,052), which was 3,000 short of the Congress candidate, who was the first runner-up.
Congressman Tharoor is returning to the electorate after his dazzling performance at his electoral debut in 2009, when he won by a handsome margin of 99,998 votes.
This time around, the former United Nations official will be no stranger to the rigours and mysteries of Indian electioneering.
But the mystery surrounding the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar could bog him down just a bit. In a complaint filed before the chief electoral officer on Tuesday Tharoor accused the Opposition, both the Left parties and the BJP, of slandering him and publicly calling him Pushkar's murderer.
Tharoor has already come out with a detailed 40-page booklet listing his achievements and the developmental work carried out in the constituency in the past five years. He is also expected to put together a high voltage campaign in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister A.K. Antony are expected to participate.
Bennet Abraham may be the new boy in the electoral arena but his party is certainly not. An anaesthetist by profession, he is director of a self-financing medical college on the city outskirts - but this has started taking a toll on him.
It was Antony, as chief minister in 2001, who opened up professional education to the private sector and Abraham's college was one of the first to obtain permission. The college, however, has been accused of lack of transparency in the admission processes by the students and youth wings of the Communist parties.
While the college is a handicap, what could come to Abraham's aid is the fact that he hails from the powerful Nadar community. If one goes by past trends, being a Nadar in Thiruvananthapuram pays because history says that A. Charles is the only person who has managed a hattrick (1984, 1989, 1991) of wins from this constituency.
As former state-level middle-distance runner, Abraham would be the best person to know how to pace himself during the campaign phase. For now he has already embarked on a door-to-door campaign in Thiruvananthapuram.
With the D-day, April 10, not too far away how Thiruvananthapuram reacts to this threesome is anybody's guess.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 20-03-2014)