It is payback time for CPI (M), the hegemon of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) at Attingal, lying next door to Thiruvananthapuram. It lost this pocket borough in South Kerala in one of the most chronicled upset victories to a rampaging Congress that clinched a 19-1 landslide in Kerala in 2019. The CPI (M) has been licking its wounds ever since and wants to win, come what may.

The three-cornered fight is being closely watched thanks to the stalwarts involved: V Muraleedharan (BJP), Minister of State of External and Parliamentary Affairs in the Modi cabinet, and Adoor Prakash, sitting MP and Congress giant killer of 2019. The CPI(M) is represented by V Joy, MLA from Varkala and president of the ruling party’s Thiruvananthapuram District Committee.

Chief Minister of Telangana Revanth Reddy campaigns for the Congress candidate in Attingal constituency, Adoor Prakash (right), ahead of the Lok Sabha elections at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram

Chief Minister of Telangana Revanth Reddy campaigns for the Congress candidate in Attingal constituency, Adoor Prakash (right), ahead of the Lok Sabha elections at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram | Photo Credit: PTI

Packs a few punches

Joy may lack the stature of his better-known rivals but packs a few punches, as evident from the fight he puts on the ground. businessline tracked him down to a CPI (M) worker’s modest abode, where he and fellow party men had stopped for a quick lunch in remote Pottayil in rural Thiruvananthapuram. “We are leaving no stone unturned in our quest for a win this time,” he says in a measured tone couched in understated confidence.

It is not as if elections are a referendum against the LDF government serving a second term in the state, says Joy. “During the first round of campaigning, we faced some resistance on account of non-payment of welfare pension, made worse by an untamed price spiral. After the government decided to pay out pension arrears for two months of ₹3,200 at one go during Vishu, the resistance has reduced by at least a half.”

‘Anti-incumbency moderates’

As for the price spiral, the government has intervened in the market through Consumerfed following a High Court order. This too has made some impact on the ground. “I would say anti-incumbency has moderated to that extent. Another feel-good factor is the rejuvenation of the LIFE scheme, which provides houses to families without land or housing.”

Joy offers what appears to be a simple but logical take on fracas in the INDIA bloc, of which his party and Congress are prominent members. “We accept the BJP charge that we fight Congress within the state but work as one team outside. We have no option but to fight both at the state-level since they are inimical to what we consider as shared interests. When it comes to all-India politics, our main enemy has to be the BJP. There’s no change in that stand, even as we continue to fight Congress back home.”

Congress strongman in fray

Congress strongman Adoor Prakash offered businessline a perch on the campaign vehicle as his cavalcade negotiated the Padinjattumukku-Puthukurissi road at Menamkulam in rural Thiruvananthapuram. Modest in size, it appeared to add heft progressively while wading into the interior. People waited at junctions where Prakash made impromptu stops. He is a consummate politician with the wherewithal to put up a strong show despite lesser access to funds at a time when party accounts are frozen.

INDIA bloc, a reality

“The INDIA bloc is a reality, and the BJP is welcome to target it, if only for lack of better ideas,” Prakash said in response to a specific question. “We have been witnessing covert and overt deals between the CPI (M) and the BJP here. Both have been aligned right from the Assembly polls in 2021, which is clear from the results. The CPI (M) agenda was to prevent the Congress from emerging victorious. The BJP played second fiddle, and has twisted reality to suit its own agenda to play the victim card to the hilt.