Battle of equals to raise temperatures in Palakkad (Election Special)
The political heat is likely to raise the already sweltering temperature in Kerala's hottest district of Palakkad, which will witness a battle of equals in the Lok Sabha polls.
Socialist Janata Democratic Party's M.P. Veerendrakumar, 77, and incumbent M.B. Rajesh, 42, of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) may appear unequal in age, but not much separates them when it comes to political mettle.
The Left party's prowess can be judged from the fact that the last time its candidate was defeated from this constituency was way back in the 1991. This is, in fact, the first time a non-Congress candidate has been fielded against the CPI-M candidate.
But media baron Veerendrakumar, the owner of the Matrubhumi group, should draw hope from the fact that in 2009, Rajesh scraped through by just 1,820 votes. Veerendrakumar was elected to the Lok Sabha member from Kozhikode in 2004, but was shown the door by the CPI-M (which is almost seen like a Big Brother in the LDF alliance) when he again sought a ticket in 2009.
Upset by the decision, he decided to leave the Left Democratic Front, which his party, the Janata Dal-S had allied with for many years. In 2009, the upset Veerendrakumar along with his group, now called the Socialist Janata Democratic Party, joined the Congress-led United Democratic Front.
The understanding was that he would be given a seat to contest. True to its word, the Congress has now obliged him. Even though he preferred either the Kozhikode or the Badagara seat, the Congress offered him Palakkad, where he has support.
But for the one-time Kerala legislator, who was a minister of state at the centre (1996 to 1998), Veerendrakumar has age is against him. The leader perhaps wants to sign out in style by winning one last time and knows that he would have to use everything in his kitty to fight his youthful political opponent.
Rajesh on the other hand, unlike his more formidable and millionaire opponent, was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His rise came as a result of scrapping it out in the lower rungs, first as a student leader coming up through the ranks of the Students Federation of India and then the Democratic Youth Federation of India, which he heads now.
A lawyer by profession, Rajesh did impress in his Lok Sabha debut and was in the forefront of raising developmental issues in his constituency. He is known as an ace Congress baiter on issues related to policy and ideology.
Sparks are bound to fly when the candidates go head to head with each other April 10 in the battle for Palakkad and its political lineage.
(Posted on 21-03-2014)