Kannur: The political hotspot of Kannur in north Kerala is set to witness a fierce Lok Sabha poll contest between sitting Congress MP K Sudhakaran, who is relying on the work done in the constituency, and CPI(M)`s PK Sreemathi as she counts on the anti-incumbency factor to tip the scales in favour of the Left alliance.
For both the ruling United Democratic Front and Left Democratic Front, the battle is going to be a crucial one as Sudhakaran is the most aggressive face of the Congress in Kerala while Sreemathy is a senior woman CPI(M) leader and the party`s central committee member.
Both have served as ministers in the state in different periods and have strong roots in the constituency.
As he looks to defend his seat, Sudhakaran is banking on the various development projects which he claims he has brought to the constituency.
A vigorous campaigner, Sudhakaran enjoys full support in the party ranks as he has been at the forefront in resisting the Marxist onslaught in the area which is often rocked by political clashes.
Sudhakaran wrested the seat from CPI(M) in 2009 by defeating its candidate KK Ragesh by a handsome margin of 43,151 votes.
Sreemathi, the CPI(M) candidate, is an outspoken leader who came up from the ranks through the party`s women`s wing, AIDWA. The leader seen as a frontline campaigner for gender justice is now eyeing victory in the seat where, out of a total electorate of 11,41,866, a sizeable section of 6,10,851 voters are women.
But although Kannur is the cradle of communism in Kerala, it has returned Congress nominees to Parliament for around two decades between 1980 and 1999.
After the iconic Marxist AK Gopalan of CPI(M) in 1952, the seat slipped out of the Left`s hands before it regained it in 1998 through AP Abdullakutty`s successes in 1999 and 2004.
But strange are the ways of politics and Abdullakutty is now a Congress MLA and trenchant critic of CPI(M).
Congress leaders who have won from Kannur include Union Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran, who last time switched to the nearby Vatakara seat where he is back in the fray this time. A host of issues, like the impact on settler farmers of the Kasturirangan Report on Western Ghats, price rise and political murders in which CPI(M) leaders are allegedly involved are the main campaign themes here.
An assertive Sudhakaran said he has spent the lion`s share of his MP-LAD funds for development in the constituency and expressed confidence that it would help him secure a second chance.
He cited the ambitious plans for Kannur airport and Azhikkal port as his major achievements. He also said that people would reject the "politics of violence" and the "outdated ideology" of CPI(M).
Countering Sudhakaran, Sreemathi said that the people of Kannur were wise enough to see through the hollow claims of the Congress leader.
"I am seeking votes against the anti-people policies of the UPA government at the Centre and the failure on all fronts of the Oommen Chandy government in the state. Both dispensations have failed to meet the people`s demands," Sreemathi told a news agency.
She said she would give priority to ending unemployment at the grassroot level if she wins the battle for this seat.
LDF hopes that, as with a few other constituencies in Kerala, the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats conservation will hit Congress`s prospects in Kannur.
Assembly segments under the constituency like Peravoor and Irikkur - traditional UDF strongholds which contributed significantly to Sudhakaran`s victory last time - have witnessed agitations over the Western Ghats issue.
Settler farmers in the area fear that the implementation of the report would lead to their large-scale displacement from their land-holdings.
Of the seven Assembly segments here which make up the seat, four went to UDF in the 2011 Assembly Elections.
Karshaka Morcha national secretary PC Mohanan is BJP`s candidate.
Internal issues and crossing over of a section of party workers, led by former district president OK Vasu, to CPI(M) have dampened BJP`s spirit before the fight for the seat.
Elections in Kerala are set to be held on April 10.