Lok Sabha elections: Three Titans lock horns in Thiruvananthapuram constituency

Can Congress' Shashi Tharoor win the fourth time in a row and create a record? Or will BJP's Rajeev Chandrasekhar halt Tharoor juggernaut?

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Mar 13, 2024 | 11:00 AMUpdatedMar 13, 2024 | 11:17 AM

Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha

At the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, the battle lines are drawn for a gritty three-cornered contest. Here, it’s not just the temperature that’s soaring, but emotions are also reaching a boiling point as election fever grips the constituency.

The scorching heat along with the poll heat has created a unique fusion as candidates in the fray have started to sweat it out both literally and figuratively.

The pulsating contest will be between the sitting MP Shashi Tharoor, the UDF candidate from the Congress, LDF’s Pannyan Raveendran from the CPI, and NDA’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar from the BJP.

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Building the momentum

All three political fronts had kick-started their election campaigning slowly but steadily in the seven Assembly constituencies — Kazhakkoottam, Vattiyoorkkavu, Thiruvananthapuram, Nemom, Parassala, Kovalam and Neyyattinkara.

At various places in the constituency, campaign posters, hoardings, banners, and graffiti with the names of respective candidates had sprung up to garner the attention of voters.

The candidates are also in the thick of the proceedings as they started to canvass from their customised election campaign vehicles.

They are also busy attending meetings, inaugurations, election conventions, and others. At the booth level, party workers are engaged in door-to-door campaigning for their respective candidates.

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Record beckons Tharoor

Congress’s Shashi Tharoor is on the cusp of creating a record. If he wins this time, he will become the first to hold the record of representing the constituency for a record fourth time in a row.

Till now, he is the second person to win three times in a row (2009, 2014, and 2019). Before him, another Congress leader, A Charles had achieved this feat by winning the 1984, 1989, and 1991 general elections.

However, when Charles contested for the fourth time, he tasted defeat at the hands of the CPI’s KV Surendranath in 1996.

Talking to South First, Thiruvananthapuram District Congress Committee (DCC) president Palode Ravi exuded confidence that Tharoor would continue the streak.

“Tharoor continues to woo voters irrespective of their age and political ideologies. His popularity and charisma have not diminished even a bit since 2009. Instead, it had grown. He will win this time also,” he said.

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BJP’s X factor to stop Tharoor juggernaut

The BJP which was languishing in the third or fourth slots from the 1989 general elections, felt winds of change blowing in the constituency in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

In both these elections, it ended second. Considering the changing political landscape in the country, the BJP is fielding a star candidate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, with high hopes of winning.

Though a fresh face, the BJP feels that Chandrasekhar’s stature as an international entrepreneur and as Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Electronics and Information Technology and Jal Shakti in the second term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, might help them to trump Tharoor this time.

BJP district president VV Rajesh told South First that this time the BJP will emerge victorious as the electorate has welcomed Chandrasekhar with open arms.

“Thanks to Tharoor, we will win this time. In the last 15 years, Tharoor has done nothing for this constituency. He was not even available. He had stated that this would be his last election. So why should anyone vote for him,” said Rajesh.

When asked whether Chandrasekhar’s newcomer status might affect his prospects, Rajesh brushed aside such claims and said, “Rajeev had entered politics in 2006. Before that, he was a known entrepreneur. Also, for the past 18 years, he has been a Parliament member. Thus, there is no familiarity issue. The people of the constituency have accepted him.”

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Underdog or Darkhorse?

For the CPI, this election is an opportunity to regain its lost confidence. In the last two elections, they had ended up in the third slot.

It’s at this juncture that the CPI asked Pannyan Raveendran, its senior leader with a clean image among the masses, to contest from Thiruvananthapuram.

By entrusting such a responsibility, the party thinks that they could not only wrest back the seat that they lost to Tharoor in 2009 but also nip the BJP’s dream of blossoming the lotus in the constituency for the first time in the bud.

Raveendran had represented Thiruvananthapuram in the 14th Lok Sabha after he won a by-election necessitated by the death of the then-incumbent MP P Vasudevan Nair.

According to LDF’s election campaign committee chairman M Vijayakumar, though the constituency will witness a three-cornered fight, the LDF has the upper hand.

“Look, of the seven Assembly constituencies we had won six (except Kovalam). Some political pundits are citing the 2019 general election scenario. But that’s baseless. Much water has flown under the bridge and it will help LDF,” he said and added the contest would be between the LDF and the UDF and the BJP will end up in the third spot.

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A mixed bag of emotions for voters

As political parties and their respective candidates’ strategies on how to win the election and influence voters, the latter has started to analyse each candidate.

Hima, a first-time voter from the constituency said that her vote will not be party-based and the yardstick will be performance.

“What these candidates had done so far for our constituency as well as for the society in general? What do they plan to do if they get elected? These are the two factors that I will check before I cast my vote,” said Hima.

At the same time first-time voter, Nandana opined that she will vote against the BJP as she can’t tolerate their politic of communal poison.

“I wanted to be represented by a person who is educated, can connect with the masses, and could lead a fight against the politics of hate. My vote is for Shashi Tharoor,” she said.

Rajesh Krishnan, a techie, has a different take. According to him, when one looks at social media a discussion is already there on what Tharoor did to the constituency in the last 15 years.

“Yes, Tharoor is a good candidate. But the problem is that he can’t do much even if he desires as he lacks the manoeuvring to execute the projects. For that power is needed and it unfortunately rests with the BJP. Going by the developments, Modi will come for a third term. So, I believe Rajeev will have an edge over others,” said Rajesh.

Familiarity issue

Echoing the same, Syam Kurup, an entrepreneur, said though Chandrasekhar is not so familiar, he is a formidable opponent against Tharoor.

“Rajeev’s stature matches with that of Tharoor’s. The BJP is already projecting that Rajeev, if won, will become a Union minister. This could make big differences for the constituency. Yes, Tharoor had initiated many programmes. The battle will be between Tharoor and Rajeev and I see fewer chances for Pannyan,” said Kurup.

Nidheesh Raj, another techie, however, stated that he didn’t know Chandrasekhar. “I don’t know who he is. As it was found that he was one of the candidates from my constituency I searched who he is. And I wonder why an MP from Karnataka is contesting here (Rajeev is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka since 2006),” said Raj.

Interestingly the issue of familiarity was also shared by a booth-level worker of the BJP.

Manikandan of Parassala Assembly Constituency said that during house visits, only the young generation knows Chandrasekhar. “The elderly know only Tharoor. But we can change this perception. It is only the initial days of the campaigning and the more exposure Rajeev gets the more familiar he will become,” he said.

Meanwhile, a voter from the fishing community shared an interesting take. According to Valerian, a voter from Kovalam Assembly Constituency, Vizhinjam International Seaport will become a deciding factor among the fishing community.

“This seaport is of no benefit to the fishing community. Both the BJP and LDF governments turned their back on us. Though the Congress didn’t display their support to us publicly during the days of protest, they understand our cause. This will reflect in the votes also,” he said.

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Beauty lies in unpredictability

One thing is for sure, in the days to come the three candidates’ campaigning will reach a feverish pitch.

As far as voters are concerned, they will weigh their options and will decide which titan they have to choose for the future course of their beloved constituency.

But as it is said, the beauty of election lies in its unpredictability.