Dharmadam in Kannur has been in the headlines for the past few weeks in Kerala. It is the constituency where the most important person of the current cabinet – incumbent Chief Minister Pinarayai Vijayan -- is contesting in the State Legislative Assembly election. With the CPI(M) strongman’s candidature and the opposition-UDF’s delay in declaring a candidate, Dharmadam remained a topic of interest till the last day of submitting nominations. Here is a sneak peek into the constituency.
Dharmadam constituency, in the northern district of Kannur in Kerala, was formed after the delimitation process in 2008. It constitutes eight panchayats from two taluks - Kannur and Thalassery. Since its formation, the constituency has been Left-leaning. In 2011, LDF candidate KK Narayanan of CPI(M) got elected to the Legislative Assembly with a majority of 15,162 votes against the Congress. In 2016, the people of Dharmadam selected the current Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, with a majority of 36,905 votes. In the 2019 Parliamentary election, when most of the state preferred to vote for the Congress and the UDF, the LDF still led in Dharmadam constituency although the lead dropped to 4,099 votes. In 2020 local body elections when the state favoured the ruling LDF government, the lead was 49,180 votes in favour of CPI(M).
Dharmadam also beholds Pinarayi village which is the native of Pinarayi Vijayan. In his tenure as CM since 2016, Pinarayi Vijayan has gained popularity en masse. We should also recall the fact that in 2016 elections, the party didn’t project Pinarayi Vijayan as the CM candidate, but in 2020, the story is different. The image of Pinarayi Vijayan has transformed from the adamant and unwavering party secretary of CPI(M), to an efficient ruler of the state who has managed various crises with poise and coalescence.
For the 2021 election, the UDF tried hard to bring a strongman against the sitting CM. There were initial indications that Congress leader K Sudhakaran, who is the sitting MP from Kannur Parliamentary constituency, will contest in Dharmadam. However, in a dramatic twist K Sudhakaran declared that he is not willing to be the contender. He explained the reason as need of his involvement in campaigning in Kannur district, being the working president of the KPCC, and lack of time for the basic preparation needed for the election happening on April 6. Now, C Reghunath, who is the district Congress secretary of Kannur district, has submitted his nomination. It should also be noted that the candidate was declared on the last day to submit nomination.
The NDA candidate for Dharmadam constituency is CK Padmanabhan, who headed the BJP during the period of 1998 to 2003. He has chaffed the Congress stating it has already failed when the party delayed in declaring the candidate for Dharmadam constituency.
Another factor that brought attention to Dharmadam constituency is the candidature of the Walayar mother who is challenging the sitting CM as an independent candidate. Though the UDF first announced to support her, they backed out. Her two minor daughters were allegedly raped and murdered at their home in 2017. In her statement at the Thrissur press club, she stated the candidature as a way to seek justice for her children. She had recently tonsured her head to express her protest against the state government which failed to take action against those who allegedly subverted the case in favour of the accused, paving way for their acquittal.
The state has seen wide developmental changes in infrastructure, education and health care system. Yet there have been controversies and allegations against the CM and the kin of those associated with the ruling party. The gold smuggling case was a boiling topic during local body elections. Yet, the LDF won with a sweeping majority. Kerala has been a state where people have chosen alternative fronts to rule every five years. But then the local body elections are considered as the trial assessment for the Legislative Assembly which happens in the succeeding months. The 140-member Kerala Assembly election will be held on April 6 and the counting will happen on May 2.
Suvidha Vijayan is a freelance journalist from Kannur.