Thalassery: Crucial battleground for CPI-M

A high profile electoral battle is in the offing in the Communist bastion of Thalassery where state Home and Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is locked in a contest with young Congress nominee Rigil Makkutty.

Thalassery: A high profile electoral
battle is in the offing in this Communist bastion in Kerala
where CPI-M politburo member and state Home and Tourism
Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is locked in a keen contest
with young Congress nominee Rigil Makkutty.

The cradle of Communism in the state, Thalassery is no
stranger to heavyweight contestants as previous
representatives include former Chief Minister late EK Nayanar
and former Supreme Court judge VR Krishna Iyer, who became
Law and Irrigation Minister in the first Communist ministry in

This coastal town in Kannur district, the first
headquarters of the British regime in Malabar region, has the
reputation of favouring CPI-M candidates, except once when CPI
veteran late NE Balaram won when his party was a constituent
in the Congress coalition.

This time the poll battle has assumed significance
from the start as CPI-M`s initial plan was to go under
Balakrishnan`s leadership, keeping Chief Minister VS
Achuthanandan off the arena.

The segment continues to be a crucial battleground for
the party as 57-year-old Balakrishnan is the only politburo
member contesting in Kerala and is certain to play a key role
in LDF, whether it gets a fresh mandate or is destined to sit
in the opposition.

The history of the segment shows LDF has a clear edge
over UDF aspirant Makkutty, the state Vice-President of
Congress`s campus wing, Kerala Students` Union.

Balakrishnan, an astute campaigner who came up through
the ranks, enjoys the `man-next-door` image in his home turf
which he has been representing in the assembly for nearly two

The powerful poll machinery of CPI-M has been fully
cranked up and has completed the first round of canvassing,
covering every nook and cranny of the segment.

The UDF, on the other hand, has started a bit late as
it was only last week its candidate was announced after
several probable names did the rounds.

In 2006, Balakrishnan won the seat by a handsome
margin of over 10,000 votes defeating Congress`s fiery speaker
Rajmohan Unnithan.

Thalassery has remained loyal to LDF during the strong
pro-UDF wave that swept the state in the civic polls last

Apart from political advantages, Balakrishnan is
seeking a fresh mandate with a list of developments he has
brought to the constituency, known as the town of "triple Cs"-
Cake, Cricket and Circus.

Though a debutant and aware of being pitted against a
heavyweight, Makkutty has refused to be disheartened as he has
been picked for the hard task by the central leadership as
part of its policy of bringing in youth and new faces.

The Congress candidate exudes confidence that he will
create history this time by wresting the seat for the party.

"People in Kerala are keen on a change of rule.
Thalassery alone will not turn its back against the massive
pro-UDF trend," he said.

The UDF camp feels its campaign will gain momentum
with an array of national leaders, including Defence Minister
AK Antony visiting the constituency in the coming days.

UDF managers reject Balakrishnan`s claims of nursing
this centuries-old town arguing that the area has been
stagnating over the decades.

The UDF`s campaign themes include the LDF government`s
`failure` to tackle burning issues such as price rise and poor
law and order situation.

Makkutty has also raised local issues such as
environmental threat to mangroves by a theme park sponsored by
CPI-M in nearby Pappinissery and sensational removal of party
Kannur district secretary P Sasi for alleged personal

Another force in the constituency is BJP, which
despite always finishing a distant third, has some pockets of
influence in the area, often rocked by RSS-CPI-M clashes. The
party was the first to announce its candidate V Ratnakaran,
who got his campaign started in right earnest.