Lok Sabha polls: Kanyakumari to see tight fight

TE Raja Simhan | | Updated on: Apr 08, 2019
Pon Radhakrishnan of the BJP.

Pon Radhakrishnan of the BJP.

H Vasanthakumar of the Congress. File Photo

H Vasanthakumar of the Congress. File Photo

Congress, allies keen to wrest it

It is going to be a tight battle between two sons of the soil — Pon Radhakrishnan of the BJP and H Vasanthakumar of the Congress — in the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha constituency, the lone seat that BJP won in 2014 in Tamil Nadu.

Though the electoral arithmetic favours Radhakrishnan, the Union Minister of State for Finance, caste plays an important role in the elections here and could tip the scale in his opponent’s favour.

Called Ponnar among local people, Radhakrishnan is chasing a back-to-back victory in the southern-most constituency of the country amidst backlash among many voters on issues such as lack of jobs, poor liquidity, shortage of drinking water and the controversial Enayam container terminal project.

A win for retailer Vasanthakumar, founder of Vasanth & Co, will be a revenge for the loss he suffered at the hands of Radhakrishnan last time.

Fishermen’s ire

Fishermen from the Christian community in the coastal regions of Colachel, Enayam, Thengaipattinam and Neerodi could possibly play spoilsport for Radhakrishnan over his Enayam pet project, which they fear will affect the livelihood of over one lakh people.

L Subhash, a fisherman in Colachel, complains that Radhakrishnan did not visit the hamlet when Cyclone Ockhi devastated the region in November 2017, killing around 100 fishermen. There is also anger among locals against Radhakrishnan’s move to construct the container terminal at Enayam. “This project is of no use to us. We know only fishing. We will be evicted en massé if the terminal is built,” he said.

“There is no cash flow in the market. Who has the time to go to the bank to get cash every time?” asked fruit vendor T Thangaswamy. “The BJP has ignored us.”

Mixed fare

Kanyakumari consists of six Assembly constituencies — Kanyakumari town, Nagercoil, Colachel, Padmanabhapluram, Villavancode and Killiyur.

Radhakrishnan has a good support base in Kanyakumari, Nagercoil and Padmanabhapuram but not in the coastal areas. “Ponnar has done a good job in improving road infrastructure. He should be given another chance,” said M Uma, who runs a provision store in Vattakottai village in Kanyakumari.

In 2014, out of the total 14.67 lakh voters, 9.91 lakhs voted. Radhakrishnan scored a sensational win by securing 3.72 lakh votes (37.80 per cent) while Vasanthakumar was runner up with 2.44 lakh votes (24.76 per cent); followed by AIADMK’s D John Thanakam (1.76 lakh votes); DMK’s FM Rajarathinam (1.17 lakhs) and CPI (M) candidate AV Bellarmin getting 35,284 votes.

Voting pattern

Last time, the Congress, the DMK and the CPI (M) contested separately. Similarly, the BJP and the AIADMK fought against each other. Votes split among various parties. However, this time, the DMK-Congress-CPI (M) are in an alliance and the BJP is with the AIADMK. This could lead to consolidation on both sides. If one goes by the last election data, the BJP-AIADMK combine has an advantage as it polled a total of 5.48 lakh votes while the DMK-Congress-CPM (M) polled a total of 4.56 lakh votes. However, this arithmetic could possibly change. Last time, the Christian Nadar community and fishermen strongly supported the AIADMK. This time, this could tilt towards the DMK due to AIADMK’s alliance with the BJP, said Francis Amardhas in Colachel. “The Church has a strong influence on the voters,” he said.

Poll promises

With a tough contest on the cards, both the candidates have made generous offers to woo the voters. Vasanthakumar promises a monthly income of ₹6,000 for people living below the poverty line, waiver of both education and farm loans and an increase by ₹300 per day under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Scheme. He has also promised to construct a technopark in Kanyakumari constituency.

Radhakrishnan assured the fishermen that if re-elected all their issues would be sorted out, and will take action to improve fishing in the region by constructing cold storage to enable export rather than sending the catch to Kochi or Thoothukudi.

Published on April 08, 2019
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