Kannur (Kerala), March 28: The Congress appears to be contesting only on paper in Kannur. The electoral battle for this north Kerala constituency is in fact between the CPI-M and sitting Lok Sabha member K. Sudhakaran.
Sudhakaran, 65, a Congress leader, has a larger than life political persona in these parts.
His stint in electoral politics began with the 1996 assembly polls and since then he has secured a hat-trick of wins from the Kannur assembly constituency. In 2009, it was time for a bigger political game.
Sudhakaran, a sitting legislator the time, was named as a surprise Congress candidate to wrest back the Kannur Lok Sabha seat, which the Congress had lost in 1999. And he did not let the party down.
The CPI-M and Sudhakaran have been at the logger-heads for long, and each time one way or the other Sudhakaran has emerged successful; be it a battle for a seat in the assembly seat or the Lok Sabha in 2009.
For example, both in 1999 and in 2004, CPI-M youth leader A.P. Abdulla Kutty wrested the traditionally pro-Congress Kannur seat. But come 2009, and Kutty joined hands with the Congress and Sudhakaran on the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and dashed the Left party’s hope of retaining the seat.
Perhaps the last nail in the CPI-M’s coffin was hammered in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls which Sudhakaran won and in the by-election which followed in Kannur, his newfound political pal Kutty won the honours too, making Sudhakaran politically invincible in Kannur.
However, this time to take on the Congress’s one-man-army Sudhakaran in Kannur, the CPI-M has fielded one of its best candidates, namely former state minister of health P.K. Sreemathy, who is also one of the party’s tallest women leaders here in terms of stature.
Sreemathy, 64, a CPI-M central committee member, has been a two-time legislator. In the 2011 assembly polls, she was rested and asked to campaign extensively for the party.
As health minister in the V.S. Achuthanandan government (2006-11), she is known to have worked hard to ensure that healthcare facilities in districts of Kannur and Kasargode improve drastically. She expects her performance as the health minister will be the talking point when she engages with her electorate to solicit votes, this time against Sudhakaran.
She would also hope that intra-party issues within the Congress, stemming from Sudhakaran’s domineering attitude, which has antagonized several of his colleagues, would come in handy to her.
Sudhakaran on the other hand is hoping that the backlash following the sensational and brutal murder of T.P. Chandrasekharan in 2012 will do the trick for him.
Chandrasekheran, a popular Left leader from north Kerala was brutally murdered in May 2012. His murder, which has seen the conviction of three CPI-M leaders, has created a huge dent in the image of the CPI-M. This is what Sudhakaran expects will be his trump card against his opponents.
The Left hopes that the crossing over of local Bharatiya Janata Party workers who had formed the NaMo Vichar Manch into the red bastion would help balance off the fallout of the murder and its links to their leaders.
However, it does appear that the veteran Sudhakaran, who has rarely tasted defeat in the last two decades is confident this time too he will emerge victorious, especially because the Congress-led United Democratic Front has won five of the seven assembly constituencies in the Kannur Lok Sabha constituency in the 2011 assembly polls.
But this time around, the fight promises to be a keen contest. One between a party which hopes to make gains and a man who has a lot to lose.