“As a son of this soil, I am committed to advancing the development of the Kanniyakumari region and ensuring the well-being of all sections of the society, regardless of my role or position,” says Pon Radhakrishnan, the BJP candidate for Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha constituency in southern Tamil Nadu.

Bordering Kerala, the constituency is known for its Hindu-Christian polarisation. It has historically been a stronghold of national parties. According to the 2011 Census, the constituency has nearly an equal number of Hindus and Christians. While Christians typically support the Congress, Hindus, particularly Nadars and Pillais, have been the major vote base for the BJP.

This Lok Sabha constituency comprises Kanniyakumari, Nagercoil, Colachel, Vilavancode, Padmanabhapuram, and Killiyoor assembly constituencies, with 15.70 lakh voters, including 7.8 lakh women.

In 2014, Radhakrishnan defeated Congress’ Vasanthakumar, a businessman and founder of Vasanth & Co. But in 2019, Vasanthakumar won, defeating Radhakrishnan.

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However, following the demise of Vasanthakumar and the consequent by-election to the constituency in 2021, Radhakrishnan again lost to Vasanthakumar’s son Vijay Vasanth.

In this election, both the national parties, BJP and Congress, have fielded prominent figures—Radhakrishnan and Vijay Vasanth. AIADMK has fielded Nazareth Basilian from the fishermen’s community.

Political observers say that this time the contest is again between Radhakrishnan and Vasanth.

A BJP party veteran and a former Union Minister Radhakrishnan aims to win this election by highlighting his efforts to bring infrastructure projects and being a voice of people’s issues in the Kanniyakumari region, hoping it would resonate well with all categories of the voters.

Radhakrishnan said that despite not being a Member of Parliament, he has been making sincere efforts for the development of the region. “Four lane road from Kanniyakumari to Trivandrum has been a long pending project. I managed to get ₹1,041 crore sanctioned for the same from the Centre. But the DMK government refused to provide its share and caused all hurdles to this project by not making available materials like sand,” he said.

He also accused the DMK government of not doing anything to serve the demand of creating a multi-speciality hospital as the region has a high number of cancer-affected people who have to travel to Trivandrum for treatment. These poor patients face a lot of challenges due to language problems and other procedural issues. 

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“Contrary to the past, people from across sections, including Christians now welcome us as they believe that we are the only ones who speak for the development of this region,” he added.

Political observers say that some diversion of ADMK votes towards BJP and change in people’s perception of BJP may augur well for Radhakrishnan.

The incumbent MP, Vasanth, who is seeking votes based on his initiatives in the constituency and other larger issues projected by his party such as employment, is hopeful of clinching his second victory. This time it is going to be a closely contested electoral battle in Kanniyakumari.