Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala`s ruling and opposition fronts will face their biggest popularity test since the May Lok Sabha elections when byelections are held for three Assembly seats next month.
Voting will take place in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Kannur constituencies. The seats fell vacant when their Congress legislators were elected to the Lok Sabha in May.
The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) holds the record of winning all byelections in the state whenever it is in power. But the LDF, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), is taking no chances.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front`s (UDF) confidence levels have not waned since it won 16 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats, as against just one seat it bagged in 2004.
While the CPI-M will field candidates in Kannur and Ernakulam, the Communist Party of India (CPI) will contest the Alappuzha seat.
Unlike the Left, the Congress is expected to find it more challenging to zero in on candidates from a long list of hopefuls even after considering caste, community, religion and even gender factors.
The last date for filing nominations is Oct 21.
In the 2006 Assembly elections, the Congress had won the three seats although the LDF swept to power winning 98 seats in the 140-member house.
"There is no doubt we will win hands down in all three constituencies," said Congress legislator VD Satheesan.
Not to give in easily, the Marxists are putting up a brave face, knowing well that winning the three seats won`t be easy.
P Sasi, district secretary of the CPI-M in Kannur district, insisted that people had turned against the Congress-led coalition since the Lok Sabha ballot.
"The signing of the ASEAN free trade agreement is certainly going to be an issue in the election. So will be the other policies of the Manmohan Singh government," Sasi said.
Experts say the ASEAN pact might hit hard some of Kerala`s agro- industries.
In the last elections, K Sudhakaran of the UDF trounced debutant CPI-M youth KK Ragesh by a huge margin in Kannur, stunning the Marxists who had always considered the constituency their citadel.
Former minister and two-time Congress legislator Dominic Presentation may contest from Ernakulam. Alappuzha might see Shanimol Usman, president of the women`s wing of the Congress, get the party ticket.
The CPI-M is likely to field a heavyweight like EP Jayarajan in Kannur.
Sindhu Joy, who almost edged out K.V. Thomas in the Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency this year, is a possible contender for the Ernakulam assembly seat.
The CPI, which lost all the four Lok Sabha seats it contested, is likely to field Kanam Rajendran, a former legislator, from Alappuzha.