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Kerala Assembly polls | Can the Left fill the vacuum left by heavyweights?

Alappuzha, a long-time Left bastion, has a batch of freshers fighting the Assembly battle

As the cradle of the Communist movement in the State, elections in Alappuzha are always a matter of prestige for the Communist parties.

From the first-ever Assembly polls of 1957 to the 2016 elections, Communist parties [back in 1957 and 1960 there was only Communist Party of India (CPI)] had fielded one or more big names in each of the Assembly polls in Alappuzha district. In 1957, it gave the ticket to T.V. Thomas and T.K. Varghese Vaidyan, the latter was one of the founding leaders of the Communist Party of India in Kerala.

That election also saw the birth of a future heavyweight — K.R. Gouri who won from Cherthala. Since then, Ms. Gouri went on to contest in every single Assembly poll — on the CPI ticket in 1960 and as a Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] candidate thereafter — until she was expelled from the CPI(M) in 1994. In the 1965 election, the split in the CPI saw the introduction of V.S. Achuthanandan and Susheela Gopalan as CPI(M) candidates. Mr. Achuthanandan soon joined Ms. Gouri as a household name after contesting in three consecutive elections in 1967, 1970 and 1977.

When P.K. Vasudevan Nair of the CPI became Chief Minister in 1978, he was an MLA representing the Alappuzha constituency. Some of these names along with Rosamma Punnoose and C.K. Chandrappan, both CPI, featured in 1980, 1982, 1987, and 1991 polls.

However, after Ms. Gouri formed the Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samithi and Mr. Achuthanandan was defeated in Mararikulam in 1996, the big-name mantle was handed over to G. Sudhakaran and T.M. Thomas Isaac.

The duo was joined by P. Thilothaman of the CPI, who won from Cherthala in 2006, 2011 and 2016.

In 2021 Assembly polls, the Left Democratic Front, especially the CPI(M), is on the cusp of another generational shift in the district with no big names contesting this time around. This is at a time when the Left is about to observe the 75th anniversary of the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising later this year.

While deciding not to field both Mr. Sudhakaran and Dr. Isaac, both four-time MLAs, the CPI(M) has given the tickets to only two sitting MLAs, Saji Cherian (Chengannur) and U. Prathibha (Kayamkulam).

The party has fielded Alappuzha district panchayat vice president Daleema Jojo (Aroor), P.P. Chitharanjan (Alappuzha), H. Salam (Ambalappuzha) and M.S. Arun Kumar (Mavelikara).

With Mr. Thilothaman too not in the fray, it is now up for a new batch to carry the Left mantle in the district.

However, the question that is looming large is whether the LDF will be able to repeat the performance of the 2016 elections when it won eight of the nine seats in the district. Although there are a few rumblings in the CPI (M) over the names, party leaders remain confident of a good show in the elections.

“When Ms. Gouri contested the polls in 1957, she was practising in a Cherthala court. She was not in active politics. She became a heavyweight later. Our attempt is to bring fresh faces and give opportunities to all. Let new ideas and thoughts emerge,” says C.B. Chandrababu, State committee member, CPI(M).

As communist parties are looking to groom the next generation of leaders, it should also be noted that stalwarts like Ms. Gouri and Mr. Achuthanandan and so on had tasted defeats in communist strongholds.

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