A collage of the candidates contesting from Konni constituency
A collage of the candidates contesting from Konni constituency

Development is our main issue and not Sabarimala: Konni voters

TNM visited Konni constituency in Pathanamthitta to speak to the contesting candidates and to gauge the pulse of the people.

As we enter the jurisdiction of the Konni constituency, a jeep mounted with loud speakers on top, with a BJP flag tied to the hood, went past us. While the large flag fluttered to the wind, the speakers were blaring the BJP candidate’s theme song. “Oro votum thamara, thamara, thamara, chinnathil”, which means every vote will be in favour of the lotus symbol this election. Every ten minutes, one vehicle passes by--urging people to vote for the BJP candidate. 

Konni is a prestigious battle for the BJP, as this was the epicentre of the party's Sabarimala agitation. It was no surprise when the party fileded K Surendran, its Kerala unit state President as the candidate from the Konni constituency. He is the only leader to contest from two seats, Manjeshwar and Konni, in the upcoming Kerala assembly elections. 

‘Emotionally attached to Konni’: K Surendran

“I have an emotional connection with Konni. This is the place where the Sabarimala agitation happened and where I was arrested from. That is why I chose Konni,” said K Surendran, speaking to TNM.

Like all other constituencies-- flexis, banners and posters can be seen plastered across walls asking people to vote in favour of the candidates. While K Surendran is BJP’s candidate, Robin Peter is UDF’s candidate and KU Jenish Kumar is the LDF candidate. Jenish Kumar is also the sitting MLA in Konni constituency, who was voted to power in the 2019 bye-elections.

Konni is one of the seven legislative assembly constituencies included in the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency. Congress’s Adoor Prakash had been voted to power for five terms from the Konni constituency from 1996 to 2016. He had to step down from his post after he won from the Attingal constituency in the Lok Sabha elections. Subsequently, in the 2019 bye-elections, LDF’s Jenish Kumar won the election, breaking the spell of the UDF in the Konni constituency.

‘Adoor Prakash is known here as Konni Prakash’

“Even today, people in Konni, refer to Adoor Prakash as Konni Prakash. All that has been done in Konni is because of the efforts of Prakash.”, said N Mohanan, a Konni local. In the same breath he also said, “The welfare schemes and the initiatives of the LDF government may result in a lot of people siding with the government this election.”

‘LDF has not done enough for Konni in the last 1.5 years’: Robin Peter

UDF candidate Robin Peter, who hopes to get elected feels alleges the Government Medical College in Konni is an ill-equipped one and is the biggest treachery done to the people of Konni. “Konni is a constituency that has a lot of scope, especially in terms of tourism. In the last 1.5 years, an MLA from the ruling party could have done so much more. The Medical college is an eyewash. They have put 100 beds and named it a medical college. What Konni is seeing today, is the development that the constituency witnessed during Adoor Prakash's time. The title deed is another issue the people here are really concerned about. Sabarimala isn't an issue that we plan to ask for votes about. Congress is with the believers. We are not in favour of anything that is against the believers.”

‘Sabarimala not an issue for people of Konni’

Purushothaman, another Konni resident, told TNM, “Although the inauguration of the Konni Medical College was done by Jenish Kumar, the project was started by Adoor Prakash. Development is our only agenda this election. Sabarimala is not even a matter of concern for people of Konni.”

Shailesh Kumar, a man who runs a tea stall in Konni town feels development is what matters to the people. “After Junish Kumar came to power, there is no road in this area which is not tarred. The Medical College which was partially complete was also completed by him. The common man doesn't relate to the Sabarimala issue, development is what matters to us”, said Kumar.  

K Rajan, a businessman in Konni feels Jenish Kumar deserves another chance. He said, “Jenish Kumar has been running around throughout. Whether it’s a wedding, a death or any occasion Jenish Kumar turns up. The people feel that he is one among us. He has a good reputation here and is likely to be given another chance.” 

The BJP, Sangh and many activists who were against women’s entry in Sabarimala were arrested while agitating in Konni.

‘Sabarimala issue is BJP’s main poll plank’

Though several residents in Konni echo Purushothaman’s thoughts about Sabarimala not being an issue for the people of Konni, BJP candidate K Surendran feels Sabarimala is the main issue in Konni this election. “Sabarimala is definitely an important issue this election. The Sabarimala issue is the reason why BJP’s votes went up in the last election. While development in the constituency will be an issue, Sabarimala will be our main issue. If BJP is voted to power, the Sabarimala airport will come up in Konni", declared K Surendran while speaking to TNM.

‘Last election proved Sabarimala not an issue’

Jenish Kumar, the sitting MLA in Konni feels that the people of Kerala proved in the last election itself that Sabrimala is not an issue for them. “Konni is a constituency that has a lot of poor people. In the last 16 months, we have brought in a lot of development works. The bye-election happened after the Sabarimala protests, despite that people brought us to power”, said Jenish Kumar. The MLA feels that the development works in the constituency is enough reason for the people to repose their faith in him again this election.

Who will win the people of Konni?

While dozens of vehicles are doing the rounds in Konni calling out for people to vote in favour of K Surendran, Jenish Kumar is out on the roads to ask people to vote for development. UDF’s Robin Peter is banking on Adoor Prakash’s legacy and hopes to convey to the people that Prakash’s Konni is still achievable--if the UDF is voted back to power.


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