In battle for LDF-bastion Kollam, a tight race between M Mukesh & UDF’s Bindu Krishna

Actor-turned-MLA Mukesh, who won in 2016, is seeking a re-election amid criticism that he’s been largely absent from the constituency.
Collage of Kollam Assembly poll candidates LDF's M Mukesh and UDF's Bindu Krishna
Collage of Kollam Assembly poll candidates LDF's M Mukesh and UDF's Bindu Krishna
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There is a saying in Kollam that the political front that gets the majority in the constituencies under this district would rule the state. Kollam's constituents consider themselves the most politically aware. Kollam politics is representative of coastal communities, labourers of cashew factories, coir workers and others.

In 2021, Kollam is expected to see a tight fight this time between Left Democratic Front candidate and sitting MLA M Mukesh and Kollam District Congress Committee President Bindu Krishna. NDA has fielded M Sunil.

For the last 15 years, Kollam has been an LDF bastion. However, the battle this time may be close, especially following criticism that actor-turned-MLA Mukesh did not show up in the constituency for the first two years.

In fact in 2016 Youth Congress workers filed a complaint at the police station claiming that their 'MLA is missing'. However the next day Mukesh appeared before the media saying, "I had gone to join Rahul Gandhi club". It was a dig at the 60 days of absence of Rahul Gandhi from India in 2015.

Now seeking re-election, Mukesh's recent visit saw many complain that he was not available for them. However, he countered them, pointing to the developments he has brought to the constituency.

Meanwhile, the UDF’s candidate is Bindu Krishna. When Congress had initially planned to field Bindu in another constituency, many women especially from coastal communities barged into the DCC office, protesting the move and seeking her candidature. It was after this that Congress fielded Bindu Krishna.

TNM spoke to several voters to find out what their views were ahead of the upcoming election. What was clear is that voters were aware about the allegations the LDF government faces over the Kerala gold smuggling case and the controversy over the contract with the  EMCC International India Limited for the construction of 400 trawler boats for deep sea fishing.

‘No common opinion’

Like in many other parts of Kerala, the Church plays a prominent role in the coastal regions of Kollam, but it is not as strong as it was earlier.

"In our church, the circular from Kollam archdiocese was read. In that there were mentions about some contract (EMCC contract), where some corporates would enter the fishing industry. It did not ask us to vote for UDF, but hinted at it. But I am a Communist and I have strong faith in the party. We will be saved only if Pinarayi Vijayan comes again. All these are lies," says Suja, a fisherwoman from Thangassery to TNM.

However, not all in coastal Kollam agree. Many are strong Congress supporters. "I have been a Congress supporter all through my life and there will not be any change to it. I always want Kerala to be ruled by Congress. This government (LDF) will not protect our community. I feel that we did not have an MLA for the last five years," says Mary, another fisherwoman from the Vaddy area.

Ambrose, another fisherman says, "We know everything happening around. We know Left, Right and extreme Right politics. The coastal region doesn't have a common opinion, we too have individual choices," he added.

Swapna Sabu, a voter in Kollam constituency, who is a Public Relations professional said that Mukesh had become a refined politician in the last five years. "I was not happy with Mukesh constesting, thinking why Tamil Nadu kind of politics is coming here. But he has turned into a refined politician this time. Also there is a pro Pinarayi Vijayan factor here. Even people who don't have any affinity for sitting MLA, want to have a Pinarayi government," she said, adding that Bindu Krishna should have contested from Chathannur, which was her hometown.

Swapna believed that BJP is strong in some areas of the constituency. "If NDA had fielded a stronger BJP candidate here, it would have been beneficial to them. There are certain regions here where the party is very strong," she explained.

Raveendran, another voter from the constituency is a Left supporter. "How many people see their MLAs daily in their constituency? Here there are visible changes of development in the last five years. Houses under Life Mission, free groceries when we all were struggling without a job when COVID 19 struck, pensions distributed on time, moreover we had a feeling that the government was with us when things were down. If we could get all these, why should we see an MLA daily," he said.

However, on the other side there are people who believe that the government is immersed in corruption allegations. "What was the difference? During UDF it was solar scam and now it is gold scam. But we agree that Pinarayi Vijayan is a strong Chief Minister, but we need transparency. Whatever allegations come, the government denies them and finally it comes out that there is something true in it. CM or whoever is responsible needs to open up, otherwise we too believe that the government is immersed in corruption," alleged a voter who requested anonymity.

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