Thiruvananthapuram: On a steamy afternoon, Kadakampally Surendran, who eyes a consecutive term at Kazhakkoottam, steps onto an all wheel drive red-painted open jeep. He is surrounded by noise, colour and crowd. Festoons and flags bridge the electric posts. A gaggle of youths move around uneasily. Announcers in multiple vehicles vainly try to outdo the ear-piercing howls from the speakers. Then silence descends.
Surendran says he has kept his promises. He assures more if they give a second chance. When he attacks the Centre, saying, “Let’s tell them this is a land of peace and harmony and is not meant for religious fanatics,” the crowd loves it. He concludes his speech, leans forward to collect a flower from a kid and moves on.
His words come out with measure and caution. A few days ago he had sounded remorseful about Sabarimala events and he had a handful to regret later on. With no one to shelter him, he had appeared like a kid, nearly kicked out of house for his mischief. He had unwittingly dropped a spark to set off a bushfire at the most inopportune time. Surendran, usually known to play down emotions, like he had demonstrated during Ockhi, had pulled out Sabarimala issue from cold storage and left it to defrost and heat up.
BJP has planted an ideal woman contender to feed off the slip and stoke the flame. Sobha Surendran, who had a cinematic, high-pitched launch to her campaign from Karyavattam Ayyappa temple, has been ruthless on Surendran. She calls him a betrayer, likens him to the demonic Poothana and looks like she has hardly started.
“Sabarimala is not about politics. He won the votes of these people and hurt them badly. He can repent but that doesn’t mean he will go unpunished. This election will make him pay for what he has done to beliefs,” says Sobha, who starts off her day at Pallithura on Monday.
There are key voters and their families whom she meets and takes her time in their houses. “This is one of the places where we are still growing,” she says. She pats on the back of the youths and whispers to them, “Do good work, we will win here”.
A nervous group of party workers are hastily arranging their booth ahead of her arrival. There is no time to lose. “Although there was a delay in candidate announcement, her arrival has given us hope,” a party worker says.
Facing her eighth election, she speaks in numbers and says she believes in them. She is known to have doubled the votes of her predecessors in constituencies be it in Attingal LS election or Palakkad assembly election in the past. She says she faces 124 cases related to protests at Sabarimala. “The delay in candidature has not affected our prospects. We have a clear mission for Kazhakkoottam, this is the mini India with people from all parts of India being employed in the IT sector. We ought to give them the development they deserve,” she says.
The seasoned contenders of CPM and BJP believe they can run over Congress candidate Dr S S Lal. Lal, a renowned public health specialist sticks to disciplined, organized campaign. Moving around the wards, he takes a power nap in his car to deal with sleepless campaign sessions. In a teeming hall filled with white clad partymen at Ulloor, Ramesh Chennithala launches a fierce assault on LDF and poll surveys. He praises S S Lal and says party expects him to deliver.
Lal, drawing his experience from college politics, tells them he will win back Kazhakkoottam. The choice of a professional in the constituency had led to mild murmurs of dissent, but party machinery is slowly being oiled back to function. UDF had lost 23% votes between 2011 and 2016 at Kazhakkoottam. “I have a clear vision for Kazhakkoottam. I will keep up the trust the party has placed in me,” Lal says.