In Chalakkudy, Left fights to retain seat

Kochi: Lying divided in Thrissur and Ernakulam districts, the Chalakudy constituency was formed in 2008 by dissolving the Mukundapuram as part of the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies. Most of the regions of Mukun-dapuram which were considered as UDF citadels are part of Chalakudy.

Congress veterans like K. Karunakaran and A.C. Jose had represented Mukunda-puram. Savithri Lakshmanan, the only woman Congress MP ever elected to Lok Sabha represented Mukundapuram in 1989 and 1991. However, despite being a traditional UDF fort, Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of K Karunakaran tasted defeat in Mukundap-uram in 2004.

Mukundapuram had sent non-UDF representatives only thrice - in 1957, 1980 and 2004. In 1980, the Left candidate E. Balanandan had won the seat with the support of the Ant-ony group in the Congress, when Karunakaran had strained relation with Antony.

In 2009, the first elections after the delimitation, K. P Dhanapalan of the Congress won the seat by defeating Adv. U.P. Joseph of the CPM and become the first MP of Chalakudy.

However, in 2014, the once UDF bastion turned to the Left by sending the LDF supported independent Innocent, an actor turned politician, to the Lok Sabha. Innocent, with his ability to communicate with the voters in their language could win the seat. The tag of cancer survivor also helped him to win the hearts of voters. He defeated P. C Chacko by a margin of 13,884 votes. Innocent had clear lead in four of the seven assembly constituencies. Chacko led only in Chalakudy, Aluva and Angamaly constituencies. Innocent bagged 40.5 per cent of the total votes polled while Chacko’s vote share was 40 per cent.

It is this narrow difference that the UDF is now pinning hopes on which is not impossible for the UDF to cross over.

Innocent is banking on the development projects, especially in healthcare sector, initiated during his term. And he is contesting in the CPM symbol which the party thinks will be an added advantage. Though Innocent’s name was not in the initial list of candidates when the names of P Rajeev and Saju Paul were doing the rounds, he could finally enter the fray, not as an independent, but as a party candidate. Ezhava votes are influencing factor in the constituency and the community’s voting pattern will decide the winner.

The UDF camp is confident of regaining their citadel this time as they say there aren’t any negative factors against the candidate. P C Chacko, who shifted from Thrissur in 2014, had to face the criticism that he is a migratory bird. However, the Twenty20 in Kizhakkambalam which openly announced their displeasure with Benny Behenan will mostly support Innocent. Twenty20 has more than 20,000 votes in the 19 wards of Kizhakkambalam panchayat.

Meanwhile, the 35,000 votes secured by Aam Aadmi party candidate K M Noordeen will be shared between the UDF and the LDF with the UDF will likely to get its major share.

The BJP which secured 10.5 per cent votes in 2014 is optimistic of increasing its share citing “the Sabarimala and Modi’s impact”. Unlike previous elections, the BJP is very active in campaigning.

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