By C G Vasan Kochi, Apr 6 UNI | 4 months ago

Friends have turned rivals in the poll arena in Ernakulam where senior Congress leader and Union Minister of State Food Prof K V Thomas takes on his friend Christy Fernandez, an independent backed by the CPI(M) in the Lok Sabha polls.

Political pundits says Prof Thomas would not have a cake walk victory against civil servant turned politician Fernandez in the constituency, despite being considered a Congress bastion.

CPI(M) supporters claim that despite initial reservations expressed by party workers about Mr Fernandez being unfamiliar with the constituency and local workers, over the past few weeks such obstacles have been overcome.

Ernakulam had traditionally favoured the Congress right from 1951. The CPI(M) had never won the seat on its own but had to support independents to oust Congress four times, two of those in byelections.

For the first time an independent, Xavir Arakkal, a former MP, who severed his relationship with the Congress and contested in the election in 1996 as an independent with the support of the CPI(M) won the seat.

Prof Thomas, who won the seat in 1984, 1989, 1991 and 2004, was confident that this time he would not only retain the seat but also improved his majority margin. Last time he won the seat with a meagre margin of 11000 over his nearest rival Sindhu Joy, the only candidate fielded by the CPI(M) in the history of the constituency.

''I have no doubts about my victory this time, and my effort is only to increase the margin, as the people in the constituency are familiar with me and they are well aware of my developmental activities in the constituency,'' Prof Thomas told UNI.

He said the situation was conducive for the Congress-led UDF and there was greater unity among workers, particularly after Mr V M Sudheeran took charge as the new KPCC President.

About his development plans, he said the main priority would be for developing infrastructure and solving the acute problem of drinking water, waste management and drainage issues.

However, exuding confidence, Mr Fernandes, a former Gujarat cadre IAS official, said though the constituency had traditionally favoured the Congress, this time history would be rewritten and he would wrest the seat with a comfortable margin.

''The response from the people is very encouraging and the party workers are working hard to turn this support into votes,'' he said.

Regarding his developmental agenda, Mr Thomas said his priority would be to solve the issues of inhabitants of several Islands in the backwaters and coastal areas.

Stressing the need for a comprehensive plan for the islanders, he said if such a plan was promoted the tourists could also be able to get a taste of traditional living and food habits. It would, in turn, enable the people to generate additional income. Then there would be no need for them to leave their home in search of jobs elsewhere, he added.

He said the benefits of decentralisation was yet to reach the people, especially those living in the coastal areas. They still needed to go to the capital or other places, instead of approaching the local bodies to get even building licenses.

''The legislations should be for the benefit of the people, but now it is illogical and anti-people. My efforts would be bring about a drastic change,'' he added.

Asked about his transformation to a politician from a bureaucrat, he said the politicians are more closer to the people and know their pulse.

BJP state secretary A N Radhakrishnan, who is another contestant, asked about his chances, said ''I have never seen such a spirit and enthusiasm among the people. We are expecting that something will happen in this time, if the people think positive.''

He said his slogan was the revival of sick PSUs, drinking water and basic infrastructure of the constituency.

Aaam Admi Party has also fielded a candidate, former journalist Anita Pratap. She alleged that a section of media was biased against her and the party.

Besides these four candidates, 12 others, majority of them independents, were also in the fray.

The total electorate in the constituency stood at 1155218, 132000 votes more than the previous election.

Ernakulam covers the seven Assembly constituencies of Kalamassery, Paravur, Vypeen, Kochi, Thripunithura, Ernakulam and Thrikkakkara. Barring Kalamassery, the Congress had won all seven seats in the 2011 Assembly elections. In the 2009 elections to the Parliament, all except Kalamaserry and Paravoor stood with the Congress.

(Posted on 06-04-2014)