• Tuesday, May 21, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

India elections: Kerala gears up for Shashi-Rajeev battle

Shashi Tharoor of the opposition Indian National Congress has won from Thiruvananthapuram three times in a row while Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a current minister, has not contested a Lok Sabha election ever.

(L-R) Shashi Tharoor of the Indian National Congress (ANI Photo/Jitender Gupta) and Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

ONE of the many interesting electoral battles during India’s upcoming general elections will be held in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala. In this seat, sitting MP Shashi Tharoor of the Indian National Congress, India’s main opposition party, will take on Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which currently rules the country.

In terms of electoral experience, Tharoor, a former federal minister and diplomat at the United Nations, is much ahead of his opponent, who is currently India’s minister of state for electronics and information technology (IT).

Tharoor, who is known for his vast English vocabulary, has won three consecutive elections from Thiruvananthapuram since 2009.

Read: Boost for Modi opponents in Maharashtra as poll deal sealed

Chandrasekhar, on the other hand, has never contested an election to the popularly elected Lok Sabha or Lower House of the Indian parliament and has served as a member of the Rajya Sabha or Upper House, which is elected by the representatives of the state legislatures, between 2006 and 2024.

Another former MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Pannyan Raveendran of the Communist Party of India, is also in the fray.

With the BJP of prime minister Narendra Modi eyeing more than 400 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha this election and returning with an even stronger mandate, it is trying to make inroads in states where it has not been a traditional force and that includes Kerala.

Read: China may misuse AI to target elections in India

But can the Hindu nationalist party defeat Tharoor, whose parents belonged to Kerala, in this election or could anti-incumbency go in favour of Chandrasekhar, who hails from Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat? It is to be mentioned here that the party or its National Democratic Alliance did not win a single seat in Kerala in 2014 and 2019, when the Modi wave swept the rest of the country. In fact, the BJP has never won a Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala.

Political analysts expect a close fight in Thiruvananthapuram, one of the 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in the southern state that goes to the polls on April 26.

Tharoor, it is believed, could face a strong anti-incumbency challenge in this election and experts feel he doesn’t have much to show the voters either.

G Gopa Kumar, senior political scientist and noted psephologist, told IndiaToday.In that while the Congress leader has been representing Thiruvananthapuram for 15 years, he has made limited contributions to the constituency’s improvement and that is under the scanner now.

MG Radhakrishnan, a veteran journalist from the capital of Kerala, told the news outlet that Chandrasekhar could pose an even stronger challenger to Tharoor.

“Tharoor’s biggest challenge is the present BJP candidate and the voter fatigue. He hasn’t delivered much as an MP in 15 years,” he was quoted as saying by IndiaToday.In.

Tharoor, one of the veterans of the Congress party and a member of the Group of 23 or G23 leaders who sought a stronger leadership in the party, was the candidate in the Grand Old Party’s presidential election in 2022 but lost to Mallikarjun Kharge, the current chief.

It was even reported that his colleagues in G23 had not stood by him in the internal election and Tharoor had also raised a question about it.

Radhakrishnan feels Chandrasekhar might prove to be a strong opponent for Tharoor by poaching some key voters from the latter, including the apolitical middle class, the IT crowd and upper-caste Hindus, India Today reported. Chandrasekhar is widely visible in the media as a key member of Modi’s team that is working for the country’s development in various sectors, including IT.

“Chandrasekhar is harping on Trivandrum lagging in development in the past 15 years when Tharoor was the MP. Chandrasekhar’s techno-entrepreneur image and the likelihood of him becoming a minister again may help him,” the veteran journalist was quoted as saying by IndiaToday.In.

Chandrasekhar has been campaigning aggressively against the Congress MP. He said earlier this month that both Kerala and Thiruvananthapuram are being pushed backwards and blamed the state’s Left government accusing it of financial mismanagement.

He has also sued Tharoor alleging the latter disseminated “patently false information” about bribing of key voters and influential figures such as parish priests, among others, by the former. A legal notice was sent that also accused Tharoor of violating the model code of conduct.

But there are also people who feel Chandrasekhar was fielded in Thiruvananthapuram far too late and he did not have enough time at his disposal to know the local people and their pulses. Since Kerala is ruled by the Left and has a sizable population of Muslims and Christians, it could make Chandrasekhar’s test more difficult.

However, Hindus are in majority in Thiruvananthapuram, constituting nearly 65 per cent of the population (it is just above 55 per cent in all of Kerala), and that could go in favour of the BJP candidate on April 26.

In the 2016 state election in Kerala, the BJP had won the constituency of Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram — the only seat that got — and the Hindu nationalist party would be hopeful to make serious inroads into the state this time.

Thiruvananthapuram parliamentary election results:

2019: Shashi Tharoor beat Kummanam Rajasekharan of the BJP by nearly 100,000 votes

2014: Tharoor beat O Rajagopal of the BJP by 15,470 votes

2009: Tharoor beat P Ramachandran Nair of the Communist Party of India by nearly 100,000 votes

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