A rural segment to resume fight for Sabarimala

The constituency likely to witness a close three-cornered contest

A rural Assembly segment abutting the Western Ghats, elections in Konni never used to be a high-octane affair till a couple of years ago. A seat that alternated between the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF), it has always stood as a safe bet for Adoor Prakash, a Congress stalwart, since 1996.

The electoral dynamics of Konni, however, went for a major shake-up in the aftermath of the Sabarimala protests in 2018. In the Parliament elections of 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made significant gains from the segment though it was the Congress that held a lead of 2,721 votes.

In the byelection that followed, Konni witnessed a close three-cornered fight with the BJP workers putting their heart and soul in the campaign for BJP State president K. Surendran, who had led a series of protests in connection with the Sabarimala women’s entry issue. But it was the LDF, which finally emerged the winner, also completing a clean sweep of the Pathanamthitta district in the process.

Now, as the Assembly segment is witnessing another election after a gap of 17 months, it goes without saying that the electioneering will take place in a charged atmosphere that looks set to sustain till the last minute. The sitting legislator K.U. Janeesh Kumar, who has overseen the implementation of several development projects across the region, seeks a re-election from the seat, while the UDF has carefully chosen Robin Peter, a close aide of Mr. Prakash.

However, it is the presence of Mr. Surendran, who is contesting from the seat for the second consecutive time, that has helped the battle here assume a State significance.

The LDF counts on extending its winning margin by cashing in on the favourable momentum created with the launch of several development initiatives, including the Government Medical College and the Punalur-Muvattupuzha State Highway. The sitting MLA, however, will have to overcome the issues within the CPI(M) at the local level, which stem from the recent local body elections, to ensure this.

The UDF, on the other hand, looks to wrest the seat by riding on the anti-incumbency factor against the LDF government. The selection of its candidate too has not been without challenges from within though the coalition appears to have addressed these issues lately.

The NDA, meanwhile, looks to step up the political heat towards the fag end by bringing in many heavyweights from New Delhi, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sabarimala remains the key focus of its campaign while the coalition is also hoping the welfare schemes rolled out by the Union government to turn the tide in its favour.

But at the same time, the impact of a political storm unleashed by the RSS ideologue R. Balashankar over an alleged tacit deal between the BJP and the CPI(M) over the prospects of NDA in Central Travancore is yet to be ascertained.

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