Church feud a crucial factor in Kothamangalam, Muvattupuzha, and Perumbavoor
Polling went off peacefully in the three largely rural constituencies of Ernakulam — Muvattupuzha, Kothamangalam, and Perumbavoor — with the segments recording 73.31%, 76.54% and 76.04% votes respectively, as on 7.10 p.m. on Tuesday.
Interestingly, 74.48% voters from Penganchuvadu tribal colony in Perumbavoor exercised their franchise even before 5 p.m. It was 80.39% at Thalumkandam booth in Kothamangalam, yet another remote forest locale in Ernakulam.
There were average or below-average queues in most booths in the three constituencies, where the popularity of the candidates of the corporate-backed Twenty20 has been giving sleepless nights to the three traditional fronts.
Life went on as usual in most of these locales, with people finding time to chat over a tea or gather at junctions. The eco-friendly polling booths readied jointly by the Haritha Kerala Mission and Suchitwa Mission ushered in a whiff of fresh air with braided coconut leaves and other tastefully done-up items sourced from nature.
The Ernakulam Rural police said voting was peaceful. Polling was disrupted at a booth at Government UP School, Mulavoor, for over an hour after two electronic voting machines (EVMs) developed technical glitches. Voting began at 8.15 a.m. there.
In their keenness to exercise franchise, several voters travelled long distances, braving the sun, as in the case of Sister Teresa of Adoration Convent, with whom The Hindu caught up at St. George Higher Secondary School, Kothamangalam.
A Pala native, her name figures in the voters’ list in Kothamangalam, where she had served as manager of a press run by the school. “I travelled here from Muvattupuzha with two other nuns to cast vote. With the entry of Twenty20, none can predict a victory for any candidate,” she said.
Then there was 19-year-old Vaishnav who said the LDF candidate had been a crowd-puller. “But polls are a different ball game, and the issue-based politics of Twenty-20 is finding many takers,” he observed.
Sitting MLA Antony John of the LDF is locked in a pitched battle with Shibu Thekumpuram of the UDF, Joe Joseph (son-in-law of KC (J) leader P.J. Joseph) of Twenty20, and Shine K. Krishnan of the NDA in Kothamangalam.
The Metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Jacobite Church, Baselios Thomas-I Metropolitan, cast his vote in Kothamangalam. The escalating feud between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions is a critical factor in the electoral outcome in the constituency and also in Muvattupuzha and Perumbavoor which have sizeable presence of voters from the Jacobite group.
In Muvattupuzha, sitting MLA Eldho Abraham of the LDF is fighting Mathew Kuzhalnadan of the UDF, C.N. Prakash of Twenty20, and Jiji Joseph of the NDA.
While voters found refuge under trees or in buildings to beat the simmering heat, kiosks offered fruit juices for free to them. Youths under the banner of Sunni Yuvajana Sangam (SYS) offered watermelon juice to passers-by in Perumbavoor where the UDF’s sitting MLA Eldhose Kunnapilly is battling the LDF’s Babu Joseph, Twenty20’s Chitra Sukumaran, and T.P. Sindhumol of the NDA.
“The State-wide trend suggests that the LDF could retain power,” said Prakash, a clam vendor on the Perumbavoor-Aluva road. In striking contrast, Ankush from Uttar Pradesh, who sold fresh sugarcane juice in the town with a sizeable population of migrant workers, seemed little interested in the elections. “But I make it to my home State for all elections there,” he said.
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