Palakkad Set to Blaze Again

Even though Palakkad is often seen as a swing constituency, it has a historical inclination towards left-leaning parties, particularly the CPI(M)…writes Ashok Parameswar

Despite the scorching heat, campaigners in Palakkad remain undeterred, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to securing victory in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The three major political parties—BJP, Congress, and CPI(M)—are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to reach every corner of the constituency. From bustling marketplaces to remote villages, their campaigners are actively engaging with voters, discussing key issues, and showcasing their respective party platforms. Palakkad, with its historical significance and extensive border with Tamil Nadu, can be regarded as a swing constituency.

Despite being one of the largest districts in Kerala, Palakkad exhibits diverse cultural and geographical characteristics across its regions. The cultural disparities between the eastern, northern, and western parts of the district contribute to the swing nature of Palakkad in elections.

Even though Palakkad is often seen as a swing constituency, it has a historical inclination towards left-leaning parties, particularly the CPI(M). In assembly polls, Palakkad tends to favour the CPI(M), resulting in significant victories for the party. However, the scenario differs in Lok Sabha elections. The current MP V.K Sreekandan, along with former CPIM party secretary and Politburo member A. Vijayaraghavan and BJP candidate C. Krishnadas, are competing in the upcoming elections.

Palakkad holds equal importance for all three major parties, making it a key battleground. It is also a significant target for the BJP, contributing to the intense triangular competition in the region. The CPI(M) currently holds sway in the overall Palakkad Lok Sabha constituency , encompassing seven legislative constituencies, with five of them under the LDF umbrella. However, V.K Sreekandan’s landslide victory for the Congress in 2019 defied expectations.

Mb Rajesh, now serving as the state minster, secured a resounding victory over MP Virendra Kumar in 2014. However, in 2019, he was defeated by V.K Sreekandan from the Congress. The 2019 elections revealed a noticeable anti-BJP sentiment across Kerala, where the Congress positioned itself as the central-left alternative. This anti-BJP wave likely contributed to Palakkad’s preference for the Congress, leading to its sweeping victory in the state with 19 seats. Alappuzha provided a significant relief for the CPI(M), while the BJP failed to secure any wins.

Palakkad is a constituency known for its left-leaning tendencies but is also susceptible to political upheavals. In recent times, especially during the second term of the Modi government, Palakkad has gained significant attention in electoral circles.

CPIM gears up to reclaim

CPIM candidate A Vijayaraghavan brings a wealth of experience to the constituency, having previously won there in 1989. His familiarity with the area stems from his past leadership roles within the party. Following Kodiyeri’s passing, it became evident that Vijayaraghavan, as the former party secretary, posed a challenge to the succession of Congress candidate and incumbent MP Sreekandan.

The campaign is proceeding with meticulous planning, addressing defections from the Congress and alleged anti-people activities of the NDA government. The CPM aims to reclaim its influence lost in the previous election. Recent campaign efforts have intensified, especially in response to the lacklustre performance of the sitting  MP in the Palakkad constituency.

The Left Party is optimistic about improving its performance in the Pattambi, Mannarkkad, and Palakkad assembly constituencies, which faced setbacks in 2019. Vijayaraghavan’s success in these three constituencies could pave the way for recapturing Palakkad. However, the CPM believes that the League-Congress influence in the Mannarkkad constituency will not pose a significant challenge.

Additionally, the CPM aims to sway Palakkad’s general left-leaning voter base. The organisational structure in various Palakkad legislative constituencies, including Pattambi, Shornur, Ottapalam, Kongad, and Malampuzha, is viewed positively by the CPM, further bolstering its campaign efforts.

Heavyweights in town!

During this period, there has been notable involvement of central leaders. It is intriguing to observe that the BJP has consistently intervened in Palakkad to establish itself as a dominant force. The fact that the BJP has emerged as a key voting bloc in Palakkad cannot be overlooked. The BJP is anticipated to secure the Palakkad seat, while discussions revolve around the candidacies of central ministers Chandrasekaran in Thiruvananthapuram and actor Suresh Gopi in Thrissur. Moreover, Modi’s roadshows and past visits by BJP leaders confirm Palakkad’s status as a favoured constituency for the party.

C Krishnakumar, contesting as a BJP candidate, demonstrated his strength in the last election. Despite finishing third, he garnered nearly one lakh more votes than the previous candidate, underscoring his influence in the constituency. Krishna Kumar, the state general secretary of the BJP, aims to enhance the party’s vote share despite facing challenges within the RSS-BJP alliance. The BJP is optimistic about performing well in Malampuzha and Palakkad, the legislative assembly constituencies of the region, considering its strong foothold in the area. Notably, the Palakkad Municipality is currently governed by the BJP, indicating its growing support base in the constituency.

Furthermore, the BJP enjoys more grassroots support in the Palakkad constituency compared to any other constituencies of Kerala. The election campaign focuses on highlighting popular projects and development initiatives of the central government, along with addressing the poor state of Palakkad’s health sector. BJP sources are hopeful of securing the support of young voters in this election.

We are the alternative!

The Congress is banking on a resurgence of anti-BJP, government sentiment in the upcoming election. The campaign is centered around highlighting the alleged anti-people actions of the Modi government, which have reportedly halted development activities in the constituency for the past five years. Despite the relatively subdued anti-incumbency sentiment compared to 2019, the Congress hopes to leverage issues such as the CAA and Electoral Bonds to sway voters.

Despite facing a lag in the campaign, the Congress remains optimistic about closing the gap in the days ahead. A potential advantage in the Pattambi and Mannarkkad Palakkad constituencies could ensure that Sreekandan retains his position as MP, as was the case in 2019.

The Palakkad Coach Factory holds significant importance as a campaign issue in this election. All three political fronts are striving to translate the ongoing blame trades into votes.

All three political fronts are hopeful in the Palakkad Lok Sabha constituency, where even seemingly impregnable strongholds are vulnerable to change.

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