AS Poll Campaign Ends, Thiruvananthapuram Gears Up For Photo Finish

Poll campaigning by all three key contenders in Kerala - Congress, Left and BJP - has been exhausting and intense in Thiruvanathapuram.

AS Poll Campaign Ends, Thiruvananthapuram Gears Up For Photo Finish

After head injury earlier this week, Shashi Tharoor has been campaigning with a head scarf.

Thiruvananthpuram, Kerala:

Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor has been extremely careful during his poll campaign in Kerala this week after he was injured on head during a religious ritual at a temple in Thiruvananthapuram and got eight stitches.

But his spirit remains high as he campaigns with a scarf on his head. "I am sure. We will win by a bigger majority than the last time", the two-time parliamentarian from Thiruvananthapuram says with a smile during a roadshow.

Election campaigning by all three key contenders in Kerala - Congress, Left and BJP - has been exhausting and intense in Thiruvananthapuram.

In 2014, Congress vote share dipped by around 10 per cent; but BJP vote share increased by 21 per cent when compared to 2009 in this parliamentary constituency; the Left votes had dipped slightly by around 3 per cent.

"Modi wave is no longer there. People have realised the dream merchant who sold them the poll promises has failed. Young voters are not going to buy that any more. All BJP has is communal messages, Sabarimala, character assassination and hypocrisies, which will not be enough for them to replicate their 2014 success", Mr Tharoor tells NDTV.

"Thiruvananthapuram is a happy hunting ground for BJP because of the demographics. Kerala has 55 per cent Hindu population; and Thiruvananthapuram has 68 per cent population of Hindu community. Kerala has 14 per cent of population from the Nair community - the Hindu upper caste, while Thiruvananthapuram has 28 per cent. BJP thinks this demography is favourable to them. But I do believe that they have already peaked and now it's going to be downhill for them." Mr Tharoor says, waving at people standing across the road to see him.

When asked about his performance and about political parties suggesting the BJP is opening its account in Kerala in this election, Mr Tharoor says: "If BJP does increase vote share in some places due to their fake news propaganda, it will still not be at a level that will win them a seat. I am still confident that the BJP will not open its account in Kerala in this election. I am very happy that I have nothing to reproach myself on. I have devoted myself to this constituency. If people still want to vote for Sabarimala or god knows what issue, then they deserve what they get." 

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Challenging Shashi Tharoor in the national elections this time is BJP candidate Kummanam Rajasekharan, ex-Governor of Mizoram.

BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan is busy campaigning in an assembly constituency which has been witnessing an increase in vote share for the BJP. It's an assembly seat in Thiruvananthapuram that gave the BJP its first MLA in Kerala. "Other parties don't have upper hand. I am very sure I have an upper hand. People opposing my candidature here are CPM and Congress supporters, they have failed to even tell people who their prime minister candidate is," he says.

When asked about any possible impact of the Sabarimala controversy in Thiruvananthapuram constituency, Mr Rajasekharan says, "The CPM and Congress have failed to address issues like development of airport, railway station and need of high court bench here. These are local issues. Then there are statewide issues. The BJP is the party that stood by believers and (party chief) Amit Shah specifically spoke about Sabarimala when he came here. Lakhs of people have supported us. Innocent people have been jailed."

Adding further, he says, "Devotees are innocent. It's for the first time in the history of Kerala that such a mass agitation has come up. The state government just wanted to crush it."

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C Divakaran, a three-time Left legislator, is the Left candidate.

In a triangular contest, the Left candidate has been drawing good support, despite being written off by some critics during the early stages of candidature announcements. CPI's sitting MLA and the party's Lok Sabha candidate C Divakaran has received tremendous support from the Left in the constituency.

"I am amazed at the spontaneous reception I am getting. No one predicted such a warm receptions for me. I think I deserve this because I am one of them. I am not a stranger. I am born and brought up here. Thuruvananthapuram has been cheated," he says.

"The current lawmaker gave many promises but nothing happened. This district has also been neglected by the central government led by Narendra modi. Look at what has happened to our international airport," C Divakaran says.

When asked if religion was playing a far more important role in elections, even in Kerala, Mr Divakaran said, "People are not making religion a key point in elections. But some religious people, they don't have any politics or business and are not bothered about unemployment. They only talk about god... god...customs...beliefs. People will not accept them."

Mr Divakaran rubbishes claims Sabarimala controversy may play a role. "BJP's weapon is not politics. Their weapon is sentiments of poor people. The BJP has made Sabarimala part of their propaganda, for their own vested interest. Common people want jobs, income and a second life," he sums up.

Kerala votes on April 23 in the third phase of national elections. The votes will be counted on May 23. 

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