Lush green scenery on both sides of roads, a shop or two, a few houses between a junction — Kuttiadi in Kozhikode district is the perfect image one can draw of Kerala, which is known for its scenic beauty. A serene village that leaves a lasting and soothing impact on an outsider, Kuttiadi made news during the Kerala Assembly election season, particularly when the voices within the CPI(M) party surfaced on the streets, in the form of protests.
During the seat-sharing discussions, the CPI(M) workers protested against the party’s initial move to allot the seat to the Jose K Mani faction of the Kerala Congress (Mani) — a new entrant in the Left Democratic Front, the coalition whose government is currently in power in Kerala. The CPI(M) eventually fielded KP Kunhammad Kutty, a member of the party’s Kozhikode district Secretariat. Kunhammad Kutty will take on sitting MLA Parakkal Abdulla of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
CPI (M) Hoarding
The candidates apart, the Kuttiadi constituency is a particularly important seat for both parties. For the CPI(M), it is a matter of regaining a seat, which was its citadel. For IUML, on the other hand, it is a matter of retaining the seat that it wrested from the Left in the 2016 Kerala Assembly elections. "The Left is likely to win in the state this time. But in Kuttiadi, you can't say who would win," Bhaskar, a painter in Ayencherry, tells TNM. This general sentiment stems from the fact although Kunhammad Kutty is a strong candidate, there is no strong anti-incumbency in the constituency either, as many see MLA Parakkal Abdulla as a ‘visible’ leader in this agrarian region.
While the UDF had an upper hand in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the LDF had scored 4,000 more votes than the UDF in the local body polls held in December 2020. In the upcoming Assembly election, the CPI(M) hopes to surpass IUML's thin margin in 2016.
While it is retaining or regaining the seat for the UDF and LDF, for BJP, it is about increasing its vote share in this seat. The party's vote share improved in the last two elections, which is 7.8% in the 2016 Assembly election. BJP has fielded PP Murali as its candidate.
Erstwhile Meppayur constituency, Kuttiadi came into existence post the delimitation in 2006. Both Meppayur (since 1987) and Kuttiadi (till 2016) elected only CPI(M) candidates to the Legislative Assembly until 2016. CPI(M)’s A Kanaran won three consecutive terms, in 1987, 1991 and 1996, while Mathai Chacko won in 2001. KK Lathika was the last MLA who won from Meppayur and the first one from Kuttiadi in the 2011 election.
In 2016, however, Lathika lost to IUML’s Parakkal Abdulla, though by a margin of just 1,157 votes. This came as a shocker to the CPI(M). “Lathika was accused of being arrogant during the 2016 election campaign and hence she got defeated too," Sakeer, a resident of Kuttiadi, says.
This time, the candidature of Kunhammad has enthused the party workers. "Kerala Congress (M) did not have much presence in Kuttiadi constituency, but the CPI(M) still does. Last time, the party lost by just a little over one thousand votes. But we are not going to lose this time," says Baiju, a CPI(M) sympathiser from Chemmarathur in the constituency.
Baiju and Kunhiraman
Kunhiraman, the owner of a shop where Baiju sat while speaking to TNM, also exuded confidence in CPI(M)’s victory. Kamalakshi, a resident of Kottappally in Kuttiadi, also wants the Left to win this time, “because the LDF government has done so much for us.”
Kunhammad Kutty exuded confidence that the party will regain Kuttiadi this time. “The protest against the move to give the seat to Kerala Congress (M) was a spontaneous and emotional outcome of the party workers," he had told Mathrubhumi News.
A popular face of the party in the constituency, Kunhammad is a member of the Kuttiadi Area Committee and is the former president of the Kozhikode District Panchayat. However, though it's widely believed that his candidature has boosted the morale of the CPI(M) party workers, some feel that this enthusiasm is limited to Kuttiadi panchayat, and not across the constituency.
Besides, according to its local leadership, the environment is conducive for the Left to see a continuum of power and that would also work in favour of the party candidate.
According to Ubaid, who runs an organic shop at Ayencherry, however, IUML will get a second term as sitting MLA Abdulla has concentrated on development activities of the constituency. "Abdulla was visible in the constituency in the five years," Sakeer adds.
Parakkal Abdulla Campaign
Parakkal Abdulla, a businessman and one of the richest candidates in Kozhikode, had lived in the Gulf countries for the past 30 years. “I have lived there with the people, among them and the people know that. In the last five years, I have arranged medicines for poor patients. I don't need to say that the roads have been developed; the people can see it before their eyes," Parakkal Abdullah had said in an interview to Mathrubhumi News.
Kuttiadi, Velam, Ayencherry, Kunnummal, Vilyapally, Purameni, Thiruvallur and Maniyur are the eight panchayats that fall under the Kuttiadi constituency. Of this, Maniyur and Thiruvallur are located closer to the Vadakara constituency. In these panchayats, the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) — a splinter party of the CPI(M) — has over 1,000 votes. This, the UDF believes, would work in favour of its candidate. In the Vadakara constituency, RMP candidate KK Rema is backed by the UDF.
Kuttiadi is a constituency that falls under Vadakara taluk. Both Vadakara and Kuttiadi are known as farmers' regions, known for coconut and paddy cultivation. Ayencherry and Avalappandy (spread over Perambra and Kuttiadi constituencies) are known for paddy farming, while there is a saying that the Kuttiadi coconuts are the best.
"Parakkal Abdulla had promised an international market for Kuttiadi coconut, but it never happened. Also, when KK Lathika was the MLA, she had started a canal irrigation project for the region, but this has also reached nowhere. Abdulla blamed the state government for not providing help," Sakeer says.
“Vadakara had witnessed a fight against the feudal system in the past, led by the Communist party. Hence, the party has strong roots in Vadakara, especially among the Thiyya community," says Sakeer. Thiyya is another backward class community, like the Ezhavas, in the southern part of Kerala.