Pathanamthitta LS seat: Congs tries to hold on as CPI(M), BJP try to snatch it

Intense political battle unfolds in Pathanamthitta LS seat as Congress fights to hold on against CPI(M) and BJP
Representative image
Representative image

Pathanamthitta(Kerala) | In the run-up to the April 26 Lok Sabha polls in Kerala, Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency is witnessing intense political fight, with the Congress striving to maintain its hold, while the BJP and CPI(M) are aggressively vying to secure the key southern seat.

With Anto Antony as its candidate, the Congress is banking on its success from the previous election, aiming to replicate its performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

On the opposing front, the BJP has nominated its national secretary Anil K Antony, son of Congress stalwart and former Union minister A K Antony, whose candidacy received a significant boost with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the southern district on March 15, rallying behind him.

Anil, whose nomination has not sat well with many in the saffron party's local leadership including its newest member and veteran politician P C George who had purportedly entertained hopes of being fielded from this southern Kerala constituency, is confident of a win.

"People have told me that of the three candidates contesting from here, I am the most suitable," he said.

The ruling CPI(M)-led LDF is pinning its hopes on former state Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac, leveraging his political clout in the state and past cabinet experience in the previous two LDF governments to sway voters in their favour.

All three candidates hail from the Christian community which constitutes a significant nearly 40 per cent of the total population of the district.

The importance given to the Christian community was also evident during the PM's recent party programme here when Modi reached out to them by recounting his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican and highlighting his government's successful efforts to rescue a priest from Kottayam who had been captured by ISIS militants in Yemen.

Modi, in his speech, had also subtly alluded to the case of a Catholic priest being struck by a vehicle in Poonjar, Kottayam district last month, lamenting, "It's regrettable that even church priests in Kerala are not immune to violence."

The saffron party, which increased its vote share significantly in the constituency in the 2019 LS polls by raking up the issue of women's entry into Sabarimala, would be again looking to bank on the recent issues related to the pilgrimage to the hill-top shrine to woo voters from the dominant Hindu community.

During the annual two-month Mandalam-Makaravilakku season at the shrine this time, there were allegations of insufficient facilities for pilgrims and poor crowd control, all of which is being used by the BJP against the LDF.

The BJP also tried to gather the support of the rubber farmers by announcing an incentive of Rs 5 per kg for the export of rubber sheets.

Following this development, the Left government quickly announced its decision to implement its budget promise of increasing the rubber subsidy from the existing Rs 170 to Rs 180.

The cash-strapped LDF government also announced that an additional Rs 24.48 crore has been sanctioned as production bonus to rubber farmers in the state.

Amidst its criticism of the Left government and the BJP-ruled Centre over the minor increases in rubber incentives, the Congress-led UDF suffered a setback over its candidate's comments about the Pulwama attack that resulted in the death of 40 CRPF personnel in 2019.

During a press conference, when a reporter raised the issue of Pakistan's involvement in the Pulwama attack, the Pathanamthitta MP had asked "What involvement did Pakistan have in the Pulwama blast?" and alleged that the jawans' sacrifice was used for political gains.

Both the BJP and CPI(M) candidates from Pathanamthitta used his remarks for their respective political gains by condemning his statement.

The BJP also demanded that a case of sedition be lodged against the Congress MP.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Anil said, "They should close down their operations here and move to Pakistan where they can open a party office and contest in elections."

In the face of the intense criticism, Anto Antony had claimed that he did not say that Pakistan had no role in that incident.

Later, he hit back at the BJP by accusing them of taking the same stand as that of Hitler in Germany.

In an apparent reference to the RSS and BJP, he also said, "Some persons waxing eloquent about their love for the country now, were the descendants of those who betrayed the country during its freedom struggle."

Like the Congress candidate, CPI(M) nominee Isaac is also in hot water presently in view of the repeated summons he has been receiving from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to appear before it in connection with some alleged irregularities in the functioning of the KIIFB when he was the state Finance Minister.

Isaac termed it as "an election-related tactic ahead of the LS polls".

Besides that, he also received a warning from the District Collector not to participate in official events of the government following his presence at a Kudumbasree programme here recently.

Confirming the development, Isaac said, "From now on I will confirm whether it is an official government function before taking part in it."

Meanwhile, local opinion on the ground is unclear as to who would win.

While there are more posters and banners of the CPI(M) candidate, Anil Antony's prospects have received a boost due to Modi's recent visit to the constituency, Raju, a local milkman, said, adding that there was a possibility of Anto Antony winning again.

Similar views were also expressed by some other constituents, like J George and Ashokan who were of the opinion that the UDF candidate will emerge victorious again.

On the other hand, while the UDF won from here in the 2019 LS polls with a margin of over 40,000 votes, in the subsequent state assembly election of 2021 all five seats in the district were won by the LDF.

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