Fronts tread Pathanamthitta terrain with care

High stakes in elections in the fve Assembly segments there

Elections to the five Assembly segments in Pathanamthitta this time round has been keener, propelled by an edge of uncertainty.

Aware that nothing could be taken for granted in a battle of high-stakes, the coalitions are moving cautiously across a board chequered with consolidation and discontent. And the seriousness of their purpose can be gauged so easily from the campaign blitzkrieg that this fertile land has been witnessing this time.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress, which had long held an upper hand over the region, witnessed a sharp erosion in its support base ever during the Assembly elections of 2016 in which the Left Democratic Front won all but one seat. Riding high on the Sabarimala protests in 2018, the coalition regained some of its lost ground and retained the Parliament seat three years later.

The LDF, however, remained undaunted in its mission to expand and wrested the lone remaining Assembly seat—Konni—in the by polls that followed. Through systematic work at the grassroots, they further extended its winning streak to the local body polls later in 2020.

The defining trend amidst this intense dual, however, is a distinctive rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA, which has considerably improved its votes share across Pathanamthitta.

While the ruling coalition is taking no chances and has sought its reach larger than ever before, the UDF appears confident of turning its bleak performance last time by wresting at least three seats. The NDA, meanwhile, is convinced that its high-flying campaign for the BJP State president K. Surendran in Konni will help him crash his way into the Assembly.

Of the five seats, the three-cornered fight in Konni, of course, remains the most-keenly watched.

As in the Parliament elections of 2019, Sabarimala continues to rule the campaign planks of both the UDF and the NDA, as its appeal among the Hindu upper castes remain just as emotional. The LDF, however, has sought to counter this narrative by deploying the theme of all-round development .

This, however, isn’t the decisive factor that will get the Left combine the victory it seeks. For that, its trump card is, and remains the strong organisational framework.

The UDF candidates, meanwhile, have put up a much better show this time by focusing on location-specific issues. Voter apathy, however, has been only one of the problems faced by the coalition .

In the NDA, the defections to BJP including that of the former Congress leader Pandalam Prathapan may have added to the national party’s rising appeal. But the impact of some contrary voices of an alleged deal with the CPI(M) involving Aranmula, Chengannur and Konni seats on its overall performance is yet to be known.

Among the factors varying from faith to farming and development to environment, the stance of the dominant Christian community including that of the Malankara Marthoma Syrian church too will have a considerable impact on the final outcome.

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