Ex-babu and 'neta' battle in Kerala's commercial capital (Election Special)
A grizzled politician and a seasoned bureaucrat will match their wits to win over Kerala's commercial capital, the Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat.
The two veterans are former union minister of state and four time member of parliament K.V. Thomas and Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Christy Fernandez, a Gujarat cadre officer who also was secretary to former president Pratibha Patil.
While Thomas's nomination as a Congress candidate may not have caused surprise, Fernandez throwing his hat into the poll ring has raised many eyebrows.
The 1973 batch IAS officer is contesting the elections as an Independent, with backing from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
One would believe the task ahead for Fernandez is arduous, if not ominous, because the man he is up against is a familiar face in Ernakulam.
Thomas has already represented this constituency four times in the past, besides having been a minister in the Kerala government.
He also appears to be on a strong footing now, despite having to scrape out a narrow win against CPI-M candidate Sindhu Joy in the 2009 polls.
Thomas can draw "joy" from the fact that since the first general elections only once has a CPI-M candidate won from here. The Congress has come up triumphs 11 times of the 16 elections held here so far.
The Ernakulam constituency has seven assembly segments and in the 2011 assembly polls, the Congress-led United Democratic Front won six of them.
While his inclusion in the union cabinet as a minister of state with independent charge for consumer affairs, food and public distribution was unexpected, his stamp on the United Progressive Alliance's flagship Food Security Bill clearly embossed his credentials and underlined the confidence his party has in him.
Meanwhile, Fernandez will have to bank on past trends for hope. He would perhaps like to recall and relive the feast of Sebastian Paul, who as an Independent won thrice with the support of the CPI-M.
The retired babu has dismissed talk about him being an outsider in the constituency, claiming he has an 18-year-old association with the city here and has a huge number of friends and well-wishers.
Kerala which will elect 20 members to the Lok Sabha goes to the polls April 10.
In the days leading to election day, the rival candidates are expected to leave nothing to chance.
The campaign is expected to go into top gear and all eyes will definitely focus on the battle between these two Latin Catholics fighting to 'evangelise' Ernakulam's voters.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 22-03-2014)