Kerala: Old classmates battle it out in Dharmadom 

Dharmadom (Ker), May 3: CPI(M) Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, who is returning to parliamentary politics after holding the party reins for 20 years, is waging an all out war in the upcoming Assembly polls from Dharmadom in politically sensitive Kannur district, crossing swords with school and college mate, Congress leader Mambaram Divakaran.

72-year-old Vijayan, who was CPI(M)'s longest serving state secretary from 1998-2015, is tipped to be the Chief Ministerial candidate along with 93-year-old V S Achutanandan, who is contesting from Malampuzha, if the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is voted to power in the polls. 

[Special Coverage: Assembly Elections 2016]

Pinarayi Vijayan

Vijayan, a man of few words, is crossing swords with Divakaran who hails from the same constituency in North Kerala.

K K Ragesh, the LDF campaign manager here, expressed confidence about Vijayan's victory with an impressive margin and said one of the main campaigning points was the need to check BJP's efforts to "polarise people on communal lines and attempt to destroy the secular fabric of society".

"Only LDF can resist the onslaught of BJP towards secular institutions and so our appeal is to strengthen the hands of LDF," Ragesh said.

BJP was targeting CPI(M) in the state because they knew that by weakening LDF they could gain a foothold in the state, he noted. Making a fifth bid to the Assembly, Vijayan, who served as Power Minister in the E K Nayanar cabinet, had successfully contested from Koothaparambu in 1970, 1977, 1991 and from Payyyanur in 1996.

This time he has chosen to try his luck from Dharmadom, the picturesque constituency in Thalassery, famous as the town for circus, cricket and cakes. 

Divakaran, a KPCC General Secretary, had studied in the same school and college as Vijayan. He had unsuccessfully fought against K K Narayanan of the Marxist party in 2011 polls, losing by a margin of over 15,000 votes.

"I am challenging CPI(M). If the elections are held in a democratic manner, no CPI(M) candidate will win if voters are allowed to cast their franchise without any fear", he said.

Congress also tried to attack Vijayan by raking up the graft charge against him in the SNC Lavalin case with regard to the award of contract of three hydel projects in the state during his tenure as Power Minister.

There are eight panchayats, including Pinarayi, in the segment, which are all ruled by the LDF. Vijayan, who began his campaign in Dharmadom early in view of his tight schedule in various parts of the state, has urged his followers not to be overconfident.

Achutanandan, who is leading the LDF campaign, had also visited Dharmadom to seek vote for his once bitter foe sending a new wave of energy among the cadres. Vijayan had also toured Malampuzha, where Achutanandan is contesting.

The gradual increase of BJP vote share which polled 4,983 votes in 2011 and doubled it in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, is a cause of concern for both the fronts. BJP, which has put up M Mohanan, party district Vice President, feels that their vote share will increase this time as well despite Vijayan being in the fray.

Dharmadom, earlier known as Dharmapattanam, was previously a Buddhist stronghold. The electorate in constituency, which is a Left bastion, comprises of agricultural workers, construction labourers and those employed in traditional industries.

The area which was also once famous for its thriving beedi industry and the cooperative movement, and its collapse, now is giving anxious movements to the Left circles.


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