Fierce electoral battle looms in Kollam as film personalities challenge sitting MP

Sitting MP and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader N K Premachandran is facing a tough challenge from film-star-turned-politicians of the ruling LDF's CPI(M) MLA M Mukesh and BJP's G Krishnakumar in Kollam, which is dominated by Hindus.
M Mukesh, N K Premachandran and G Krishnakumar (L to R)
M Mukesh, N K Premachandran and G Krishnakumar (L to R)

Kollam (Kerala) | A fierce electoral battle is anticipated in the Kollam Lok Sabha seat in South Kerala between the sitting MP and Congress-led UDF candidate N K Premachandran, who seeks a third consecutive term, and two prominent film personalities -- M Mukesh of CPI(M)-led LDF and G Krishnakumar of BJP-led NDA.

With poll campaigning gaining momentum in the constituency, Mukesh, a highly acclaimed actor in Malayalam cinema, and BJP's G Krishnakumar, known for his roles in movies and television serials, are expected to leverage their considerable fan bases for the April 26 elections.

In contrast, Premachandran must rely on his established political legacy and track record of performance as he competes for success in Kollam, which has a significant Hindu population.

As summer sets in, the temperatures in the election campaign for Kerala's Kollam Lok Sabha seat also continue to rise.

The BJP announced the candidature of film-star-turned-politician G Krishnakumar on Sunday evening, while Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Premachandran has already been facing a tough challenge from Mukesh, the ruling LDF's CPI(M) MLA in Kollam.

In fielding Krishnakumar, the BJP is also trying its luck in the constituency.

Kollam is known for its famous cashew processing units.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Opposition Congress-led UDF's ally RSP's leader Premachandran had won with 4,99,677 votes out of the total 9,68,123 against his nearest rival, ruling CPI(M)'s K N Balagopal, who secured 3,50,821.

It was 33 degrees Celsius in this highly humid coastal town at 12.30 pm when the PTI team met Mukesh, who represents Kollam in the state Assembly, here yesterday.

Clad in a white shirt and white dhoti, LDF candidate Mukesh stepped out of an ordinary MUV and walked towards the fishermen at the Kollam harbour.

The enthusiastic crowd raised slogans in favour of the actor and two-time MLA.

They presented him with a palm leaf cap, a traditional one used by the

fishermen community, to shield himself from the scorching sun.

Mukesh walked through the harbour greeting the fishermen and sought their votes. Later, they presented him with an amount from their daily wages towards his deposit money in the election.

"I do not want to be overconfident and minimise the opposition candidates. My voters know what I have been doing for them as an MLA for the last two terms, and I seek votes based on what I have done for them," Mukesh told PTI after collecting the deposit amount from the fishermen.

Mukesh has been a known face to Malayalam movie lovers for the past 41 years, and he feels that familiarity helps him converse more confidently with the voters.

"They listen more carefully and affectionately because of my career in the movies," Mukesh said.

The 'In Harihar Nagar' actor, who was in his second round of campaigning, is happy about the attention he receives from people. He believes that he can manage both his film and political careers effectively.

"My father was a Communist and a panchayat president. I have seen him doing theatre in the evenings and very successfully managing his political role. That is my inspiration," Mukesh said.

After a quick tender coconut refreshment, he then moved on to the district hospital, where he sat with the superintendent for some time and met the voters.

When Mukesh was actively seeking votes in the Kollam town area, his rival -- Congress-led UDF's Premachandran, who already has four terms as the MP of Kollam and is presently holding the seat -- was busy meeting voters at Kundara, about 19 km from Kollam town.

Known for his notable interventions in the Lok Sabha on various issues, the RSP leader was meeting the cashew industry workers and later visited the house of one of the party supporters, taking a break from the campaigning due to the heat.

Sitting as one among a crowd of his supporters, Premachandran discussed

campaign strategies for the coming days.

"This is a very important election to keep the BJP away from power and to protect the secular fabric of the nation," Premachandran told PTI.

He said the controversy over his participation in a lunch organised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was created by the CPI(M).

"Anyone who opposes CPI(M) is being stamped as Sangh Parivar. Everyone knows about my strong fight against the Sangh Parivar, both inside the House and outside," Premachandran said.

He said political differences and personal friendship are different. Denying the speculations over his possible move to the BJP, Premachandran said that he will never shift to the saffron party as he is one of their strongest critics in the country.

"I was never ever contacted by a BJP leader with an offer to join them. They know my politics well, and they will not come. It is the CPI(M) that is creating such a false narrative," Premachandran said.

He also justified Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's move to contest from Wayanad.

"He is the sitting MP of Wayanad. If the LDF is so concerned about the national interest, then they should have withdrawn their candidate in Wayanad," Premachandran said.

The RSP leader stopped at one more institute, run by his friend, and met the staff and his friend, seeking their votes. He then retired for lunch, taking a break till 3 pm, before resuming the campaign.

The BJP's candidate, 55-year-old Krishnakumar, is an actor-turned-politician and is currently a national council member of the party.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP's K V Sabu polled 10.66 per cent of the total votes. In the 2021 assembly elections, Krishnakumar unsuccessfully contested on a BJP ticket from Thiruvananthapuram.

The constituency has 69.5 per cent Hindus and 18.1 percent Muslims. Kollam also has a sizeable fishermen community, including those who are Hindus.

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