Twelve years ago, the streets of Vadakara were bloodied. On May 4, 2012, TP Chandrashekharan, the founder of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP), a breakaway group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M), was hacked to death by a group of assailants. The CPM and its leaders were criticised since the beginning for their alleged involvement in the murder. In February 2024, two months before the election, the Kerala High Court confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to the convicts, which included three CPM members.

The murder has been one of the most widely discussed ones in Kerala in the recent past, and data points to a clear picture of how it impacted general elections in Vadakara, a constituency in Northern Kerala. Between 1996 and 2004, CPM candidates comfortably won the general elections in Vadakara.

However, the 2009 general election was a game-changer when former Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran, a prominent Congress leader, defeated the then incumbent CPM MP P Sathidevi to win from the constituency. It was also around the time when Chandrashekharan quit the CPM and formed RMP. While he too unsuccessfully contested the election as an independent candidate, he was able to secure 2.53 per cent of the vote share.

The 2014 elections, the first one after the murder, saw a neck-and-neck fight between Ramachandran and CPM’s AN Shamseer, the current Kerala speaker, which Ramachandran won by 84,663 votes. In 2019, Congress’ K Muraleedharan won quite comfortably from Vadakara. All these years, RMP (now RMPI) has never supported either the Left or the Congress. Things changed in 2021, when Chandrashekharan’s widow, KK Rema, won the Kerala assembly seat from Vadakara (also an Assembly constituency), with the Congress’ support, with a 48 per cent vote share.

As one moves across the Vadakara constituency, it will be impossible to miss posters of the two major candidates, CPM’s KK Shailaja and Congress’ Shafi Parambil. Often referred to as the ‘rockstar health minister’, the former, during her tenure as Kerala’s health minister, was praised for her efforts to contain the Nipah outbreak and the COVID pandemic. Parambil’s credentials, too, aren’t insignificant. A three-time MLA, in 2021, he defeated Metro Man E Sreedharan from Palakkad. Talk to anyone in Vadakara, and one would have a fair idea of how the constituency will showcase one of the most exciting electoral fights this year, between Shailaja teacher and Parambil. At the same time, all of them assert that the BJP’s chances of winning are very slim.

As one inch closer to Onchiyam, Chandrashekharan’s village, Shafi’s poster reads, Congress (UDF) candidate supported by RMPI. Vadakara consists of seven assembly constituencies. While CPM represents six of them, KK Rema is the MLA from the seventh one. “RMPI has a substantial presence only in Onchiyam and a few nearby panchayats. But the rest of the constituency won’t decide their voting pattern based on this (Chandrashekharan’s murder) alone,” says Arjun Azad, a lawyer in the constituency.

“Isn’t that a decade-old issue? People will now vote for Shailaja teacher hands down,” says Raveendran, a shopkeeper in Vadakara. But immediately, many others counter him predicting Parambil’s win.

“It’s tough for people to forget that murder. It is still quite live there,” says Congress MLA VD Satheesan, Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, adding that the issue will prompt people to not vote for the CPM. “Also, Parambil is a very popular young politician. People will vote for him,” he adds.