In Kundara, CPI(M)’s Mercykutty Amma takes on Congress’s Vishnunath

Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma is seeking a fourth term in the Assembly while for PC Vishnunath it’s a first-time fight from the constituency.
Stylised collage of J Mercykutty Amma (CPI M) and PC Vishnunath (Congress), candidate for Kerala 2021 Assembly Polls from Kundara
Stylised collage of J Mercykutty Amma (CPI M) and PC Vishnunath (Congress), candidate for Kerala 2021 Assembly Polls from Kundara
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Ashtamudi lake, Munroe Island – Kundara is close to many renowned landmarks and sought after tourism destinations. Like many other parts of Kollam, Kundara too is a land of cashew nut and coir. This Assembly constituency has always witnessed fierce contests between the two rival political fronts in Kerala. This time too the picture is not different.

J Mercykutty Amma, one of the two women ministers in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government (the other is Health Minister KK Shailaja), is fighting for a second consecutive term from Kundara. She takes on PC Vishnunath, a young leader from the Congress. While Mercykutty Amma is approaching voters highlighting the ‘development works’ of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, Vishnunath is blaming the government for the ‘developmental slackness’ in Kundara.

Mercykutty Amma – A household name

Mercykutty Amma’s first victory to the Legislative Assembly was in 1987 when she was 32. Her win came as a shock to the Congress after she defeated Thoppil Ravi, a prominent leader of the party.

Mercykutty Amma, who holds the Fisheries portfolio in the LDF government, is a well-known face of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) in Kollam. Unlike most of her women party colleagues who established themselves in politics through the All India Democratic Women's Association, the women’s wing of the CPI(M), Mercykutty Amma proved herself an able leader through her work as a leader of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). She had also been a firebrand leader of the Students’ Federation of India, the student wing of the CPI(M).

“Mercykutty Amma is the only leader who has been active in working for the coir and cashew workers, and fishermen,” Titus S Kumar, a former journalist based in Kollam, told TNM.

             Mercykutty Amma Campaign

Mercykutty Amma is the national vice president who held various positions at the state unit of the CITU as well.

“That’s her greatest strength – working among workers – when she faces elections. She is one leader who can call leaders of other political parties too by name,” Titus said.

A household name in Kundara, Mercykutty Amma is the minister in charge of Kollam. The 65-year-old spearheaded the 2006 and 2011 Assembly elections campaign when her party colleague MA Baby contested from Kundara. Baby won both times.

Mercykutty’s husband Thulasidhara Kurup is also a trade union leader. The couple got married on 8 July, 1988, the day the Perumon train tragedy occurred. The newlyweds went straight to the accident spot after the wedding ceremony. Hundred and five people lost their lives in the accident after the Bangalore – Thiruvananthapuram Island Express derailed on the Perumon bridge and fell into the Ashtamudi lake.

PC Vishnunath – A new but known face in Kundara

PC Vishnunath’s candidature was announced on March 17, days after the LDF released its candidate list. The 42-year-old is a former MLA who won from the Chengannur constituency in Alappuzha district in 2006 and 2011. However, he tasted failure in 2016. His name, it was rumoured during the Congress candidate list discussion, was considered for the important Vattiyoorkavu constituency in Thiruvananthapuram too. A confidant of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Vishnunath hails from Mavady near Kottarakkara in Kollam.

But this is the first time that he is contesting from his home district. Foraying into politics through the Kerala Students’ Union (KSU), Vishnunath’s campaign in Kundara has been highlighting the deep sea fishing row in the state.

The Kerala government signed two Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with the US-based EMCC International India, one by the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation Limited (KSINC) in February 2021 and the other by the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Limited (KSIDC) in February 2020. According to the MoUs, EMCC will invest Rs 5,324 crore in fisheries research and development to upgrade and promote the deep sea fishing industry in the state. The government cancelled the MoU signed with KSINC after protests by the Opposition alleging that the MoU was against the Fisheries’ Policy of the state and would adversely affect the interests of lakhs of fishermen.

        PC Vishnunath Campaign 

Apart from the deep sea fishing controversy, the Congress has been highlighting the stagnation of growth in Kundara, alleging that the LDF has made the constituency a ‘cemetery of development’. 

“About 600 out of the 800 cashew factories are shut now. The government cut the welfare pension for cashew nut workers who get other benefits like old age pension,” Savin Sathyan, District Congress Committee General Secretary, told TNM.

Savin also said that the traffic in Kundara during peak hours is a nightmare and Mercykuty Amma hasn’t done anything to address that. “A railway over bridge is a long pending wish of the people of Kundara, which again the legislators elected in the recent past have completely ignored. Also, the proposed IT park in Kundara still remains a dream. Kundara was a hub of development, but it has become a cemetery of development,” he said.

Kundara has favoured both UDF and LDF

Kundara has been with the LDF since 2006, though the constituency favoured both the political fronts alternatively in the previous elections.

MA Baby defeated Congress leader Kadavoor Sivadasan in 2006 by a margin of 14,869 votes. Baby’s victory in 2011 was by a margin of 14,793 votes against P Jermias of the Congress. It was Congress’s prominent leader Rajmohan Unnithan that Mercykutty Amma defeated in 2016 in a tight contest. Rajmohan Unnithan later contested and won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Kasaragod district.

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