Curtains came down Sunday on the over a month-long campaign for the April 23 Lok Sabha elections in Kerala where Congress president Rahul Gandhi is seeking election from Wayanad constituency. On the last day of campaign, the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, opposition Congress-led UDF and BJP-led NDA took out rallies across the state to woo the voters. The most exciting campaign in the recent history of Kerala ended at 6 PM marred by a spate of incidents of violence involving members of all the three major fronts being reported from different parts of the state on Sunday.
Polling would be held to all 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state on April 23 from 7 am to 5 pm.
Besides Gandhi, union minister Alphonse Kannanthanam (Ernakulam), Sashi Tharoor (Congress) and BJP leader Kumanam Rajasekharan (both Thiruvananthapuram) and Suresh Gopi (Thrissur-BJP) are among the prominent candidates.
Gandhi’s entry into the poll fray from the hilly Wayanad constituency changed the complexion of polls and galvanised the UDF cadres.
The LDF has slammed the decision of Gandhi to contest from Kerala, saying it could only be seen as a move to fight the Left parties and not the BJP.
The BJP claimed he was afraid of losing his traditional seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and hence sought a “safe” seat in the UDF stronghold.
On Sunday, the roadshow of senior Congress leader AK Antony here was allegedly blocked by a group of LDF activists forcing the former union minister to return.
More than 30 people, including a policeman, were injured at Thiruvalla, in Pathanamthitta district where the activists of the BJP and the Left clashed, police said adding they made a lathicharge to disperse the stone-pelting crowd.
Stone-pelting was reported from Alathur constituency where the convoy of UDF candidate Ramya Haridas was allegedly pelted with stones.
The campaign saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, several unions ministers, Rahul Gandhi, his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and top leaders of Left parties addressing rallies in different parts of the state.
Besides Gandhi’s candidature, the Sabarimala issue was also in main focus during the campaigning by all the three fronts though the EC had warned against politicising it.
Modi attacked the LDF government saying the Communists have problems with regard to “our rituals” and the BJP would not allow them to ‘destroy’ the culture and traditions. He also referred to arrest of BJP leaders during the protest.
Countering the prime minister, Vijayan had accused him of “misleading” the country on the Sabarimla issue and said those who went against the law were only arrested (during the protests over Sabarimala issue).
The state had witnessed frenzied protests by devotees and others last year after the state government decided to implement the Supreme Court order allowing menstrual age women into the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala setting aside a traditional ban.
The LDF and UDF also raised the Sabarimala issue. While the UDF said it was with the believers, the LDF sought vote to uproot communalism from the state.
In the Pathanamthitta Lok Sahha constituency, which was the ground zero for Sabarimala protests, the BJP has fielded K Surendran, a leader from north Kerala who was jailed during the agitation. Over 240 cases have been filed against him.
The Left front had an advantage in starting the campaign almost a week before the other two fronts as the UDF and the BJP had certain confusions regarding the seat-sharing among their allies and finalising the candidates.
Rahul Gandhi in his rallies highlighted the minimum income guarantee promise of his party NYAY and attacked Modi over issues of Rafale deal, jobs among others.
He, however, spared any criticism of the Left front as had been announced by him after filing his nomination in Wayanad.
The 40-day long campaign saw leaders of rival parties hurling charges and counter charges, including some remarks which caught the attention of the Election Commission for violation of model code.
Tharoor found himself on a sticky wicket during the campaign as his tweet over a visit to a local fish market kicked up a row, with the CPM and BJP demanding an apology, alleging he had insulted the fishermen community.
The former Union minister, who is trying to score a hat-trick from Thiruvananthapuram, claimed his words had been deliberately twisted.
Last week, Tharoor suffered head injuries in a mishap while participating in the “thulabaram” ritual at a temple here which required stitches, but he soon hit the campaign trail again.
The devastating floods that hit the state in August last year was also a major poll issue with the Congress and the BJP holding the Vijayan government responsible, alleging that it was a man-made disaster.
They also alleged flood reliefs were not distributed properly.
However, the LDF claimed it was the central government which restricted the funds for the flood victims.