Poonjar in Kerala to see ‘mother of all’ poll battles

Poonjar (Kerala), April 23 (IANS) The burly P.C. George – a delight for every cartoonist – is currently fighting for his pride as he has been dumped by both the political fronts in Kerala and is contesting on his own, on his home turf Poonjar which has returned him six of the seven times he has contested.

The Poonjar contest has been touted the ‘Mother of all’ poll battles in Kerala with an interesting four-cornered fight in the offing.

Poonjar, located about 40 km from Kottayam, is synonymous with George, 64, as he has dominated the place ever since he made his electoral debut by winning in 1980.

It was only for a nine-year period from 1987 to 1996 that George was not a member of the assembly, and since then he has always been the star on the floor of the assembly, for his razor sharp tongue. In fact, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan recently said that the biggest enemy of George is his own tongue.

Ahead of the 2011 polls, after being with the Left Democratic Front (LDF), George merged his party with that of Kerala Congress (Mani) and moved over to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

After winning the 2011 polls he was blowing hot and cold against then state finance minister K.M. Mani, the Kerala Congress (M) chairman, and ended up losing the post of government chief whip. He was finally booted out of the party, and despite moving heaven and earth the CPI-M refused to accommodate him into its fold.

George, in his close to four decades in public life, has hobnobbed with both the rival fronts in the state – the CPI-M-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF, and the situation today is such that neither of the fronts wants him. Hence he has decided to fight on his own and prove that he is the boss at Poonjar. This has made the May 16 polls in Poonjar the most keenly watched four-way battle in the state.

George is being opposed by two of his former party colleagues – Georgekutty Augusthy of the Kerala Congress (M), as the UDF candidate, and P.C. Joseph of the newly-formed Kerala Congress party – a friendly ally of the LDF. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has given the seat to the newly-formed political party of Hindu Ezhava leader Velapally Natesan’s BDJS, which has fielded former CPI-M activist M.R. Ullas.

“There is no doubt I am going to win the elections as I know the electorate here. And I have been with them for the past several decades,” said George.

While Joseph has been a one-time legislator, Augusthy did contest as an independent candidate in the past and lost.

Joseph, however, says the contest is as keen as it has been in the past and is between the rival fronts. He says that an independent candidate in the fray has no significance. But Augusthy says: “Please wait till the votes are counted.”

George has been moving in and around the constituency, and by virtue of being the ‘local boy’ and his long stint as legislator, he knows many of his voters by their first names. But will it translate into votes is a tough guess.

However, his confidence level is pretty high and he has gone a step further by announcing that in case the Left is one short of majority on the floor of the assembly, he will raise his hand for 92-year old former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan to enable him to form the new government.

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