Kottayam: Seventy-eight-year-old Thresiyamma Abraham is keen to vote in this assembly elections. It was 54 years ago that she got a chance to vote for the ‘hand’ when her husband late Abraham George stood as a Congress candidate from Poonjar. Ever since, the seat has been with various other UDF allies until Congress took it back this time and fielded former DCC president Tomy Kallani as its candidate.
Kallani is locked in a four-way contest, a rarity in the state, with sitting MLA P C George, Sebastian Kulathungal of LDF and M P Sen of NDA.
A tour through the constituency makes it clear that it won’t be an easy ride for George. After his remarks against a community went viral on social media, George is greeted with boos at many places during his election campaign.
“He will end up third this time,” says the owner of a tea shop at Pathazhappady in Erattupetta. A little later, as George arrives in his campaign vehicle, a group of people who have gathered near the tea shop, register their displeasure with a barrage of boos. George, in his usual style, has a retort ready and calls them ‘ebhyanmar’ in his speech. If such a trend against George gains traction in the days ahead he will find it difficult to carry out his campaign in certain regions.
Despite such incidents, the seven-time MLA is ahead of his rivals in systematic campaigning, thanks to the efforts of his son Shone George, who is heading George’s election war room.
Kallani, Kulathunkal and Sen are all focusing on the slogan ‘Vote for Change’ in Poonjar. They also indirectly attack George over his offensive language and comments.
Kallani has a few advantages, one being the first Congress candidate after over 50 years here. “This is my first election. I am dedicating myself to you. Vote for change this time,” he says while addressing a gathering at Nellikkachal in Poonjar panchayat.
At a meeting in Erattupetta town, seeking votes for Kulathungal, CPM politburo member Subhashini Ali says, “Homemakers are struggling after the Modi government hiked cooking gas prices.”Kulathungal, a former Kottayam district panchayat president, is now with Kerala Congress (M) which is an LDF ally. The crowd cheers as Subhashini Ali mentions promised made in the LDF manifesto to allot Rs 2,000 per month to homemakers.
As Kulathungal starts speaking, one never gets the feeling that he was once part of UDF. His oratorical skills makes him different from his rivals here. “People want a new Poonjar. It is about secularism, and preserving our heritage. It is also about maintaining high cultural standards and using decent language, says Kulathunkal.
George was hoping that NDA won’t field a candidate here so that he could bag the votes of the temple-goers since he had supported devotees on the Sabarimala issue. Last assembly polls the NDA candidate had got around 20,000 votes.
Sen, fielded by NDA, is the district president of BDJS. “In Lok Sabha polls we had received 30,000 votes and we have 6,000 new votes. We are sure we will win,” says Sen.