If there will be one single constituency in the 140-member Kerala Assembly to which elections are going to be held on April 6, it would be the Nemom constituency in the heart of the state capital which would be the cynosure of all eyes.
It will be the most keenly fought triangular contest in the state.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, Nemom rode into national headlines, when the BJP opened its account in the Kerala Assembly, when its star candidate — former Union Minister O.Rajagopal defeated CPI-M leader V.Sivankutty and left the Congress-led UDF candidate, a former state Minister V.Surendran Pillai of the then Janata Dal (U), a poor third.
Rajagopal romped home with a margin of 8,671 votes and created history for the BJP.
This time with the veteran 92-year-old Rajagopal decided not to contest, and the party fielded another popular leader and former Mizoram Governor — Kummanem Rajasekheran.
Nemom is often referred to as the ‘Gujarat of Kerala’ by the BJP. The CPI-M for long has been taunting the Congress that it allowed Rajagopal to win by bringing a weak candidate.
Ever since the run up to the April 6 Assembly polls began, the CPI-M has been going hammer and tongs alleging that there was a secret pact between the Congress and the BJP. This caused a huge resentment in the Congress and they promised they would bring in one of their most popular and the strongest candidate.
The speculations were rife and the media went to town that it would be none other than two time former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and despite denials by him, the media then said legendary Congress leader K.Karunakaran will contest from two seats.
In 1982, Karunakaran contested from Mala — his home turf and also from Nemom and won both the seats.
However, Chandy clarified before his supporters in his home turf Puthupally that he will not be leaving them.
After this, the name of K.Muraleedharan, son of K.Karunakaran, surfaced and the Congress high command decided to let him contest.
CPI-M’s Sivankutty, putting up a brave face, said that he is not wary of any candidate pitted against him.
“Muraleedharan has made a habit of contesting elections. He will go down as the only Minister who had to resign after losing an Assembly poll in 2004 (he joined the cabinet of A.K. Antony and then contested in a by-election, but lost), I have no fear at all,” said Sivankutty.
Incidentally, Sivankutty got a jolt last week when the Kerala High Court dismissed a plea of the Pinarayi Vijayan government for withdrawal of a case registered against six Left legislators in 2015 for indulging in vandalism in the Assembly.
Sivankutty is one of the six Legislators charged and the picture of him with folded dhoti standing on the table on the floor of the Assembly, has made an entry again in social media.
However, Muraleedharan said he decided to take up the challenge as asked by the party.
“Winning or losing is not the point, I decided to take up the challenge as this has now become a prestigious electoral battle for the Congress party. Am not one who goes after posts, instead I take up what the party asks me to do and there is no rider or conditions in my contesting ,” said Muraleedharan.
Both Rajasekheran and Muraleedharan will be arriving in the constituency on Monday to begin their campaign.