VK Sreekandan was just 12 years old when he first held the Indian National Congress party flag. He was studying in the Government High School at Shornur in 1983 when he became the unit president of Kerala Students Union, the student’s wing of the party. Since then, over the last 36 years, VK Sreekandan worked his way up as a dedicated Congress party worker: General Secretary of Youth Congress All India Committee (2003), executive member (2006) and then Secretary of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (2016) and finally President of Palakkad District Congress Committee (2016).
The 48-year-old Congress leader, who currently holds the reins in the party in Palakkad as its district chief, has finally been fielded as a Lok Sabha candidate of the party for the first time. Though the party had fielded him in the 2011 Palakkad Assembly polls, Sreekandan lost to CPI(M)’s M Hamza by a margin of 13,203 votes.
Sreekandan’s chance of being the Palakkad Lok Sabha candidate of UDF was obvious. Even before the official candidate list of the party came out, Sreekandan took out a walkathon across the constituency titled ‘Jai Ho’, interacting with the people. In the 25-day event in March, he covered 88 panchayats and the eight municipalities on foot. It had created a huge impact among the people as it was something that no other Congress leaders have tried out in the recent past.
‘Palakkad, a Congress bastion, too’
As the Lok Sabha candidate, Sreekandan is campaigning to reclaim the constituency, which is generally considered as Left stronghold. But Sreekandan does not accept this easily. Speaking to TNM between his election campaigns, Sreekandan says that both the LDF and UDF are equally strong in the constituency.
“Congress has also won the Lok Sabha polls in the past,” he says.
“CPI(M)’s MB Rajesh, the present candidate of CPI(M), won with high margins last time because he did not fight against a Congress candidate. MP Veerendrakumar of the Socialist Janata (Democratic) Party was the candidate, whom UDF supported. He did not even contest on the party symbol. Besides, the traditional Congress supporters of the constituency did not even know him. This worked in favour of the CPI(M). But this time, things are not the same. We will win by large margins,” Sreekandan told TNM.
‘Will work for development of people, Palakkad’
In his campaign, Sreekandan is focussing on the Central government’s anti-people policy and the developments the constituency still lacks. He is quick to put the blame on the sitting MP and LDF candidate MB Rajesh for the state of affairs in the constituency.
“What has the two-time MP done to solve the lack of employment opportunities in the constituency? About the 23 companies that were closed in the past three years, as a result of which 7,000 people lost their jobs?” he asks, adding, “Palakkad is an industrial belt, but both the state government and the Centre have not resolved this issue.”
Sreekandan says his poll promises for the people have been designed to address the issues the people face in the constituency.
“If voted to power, I will do a comprehensive study of the constituency to prioritise the basic developmental issues. Palakkad’s tourism possibilities have not been fully explored by anyone. I will also focus to address the problems faced in the agricultural and industrial sector because these are the main employment sectors in the Palakkad constituency. I will also work towards improving the education level of the people in the constituency,” he said.
His list also includes the development of tribal areas in the constituency. “Tribal areas, including Attapadi, need a boost. There is no coordination between departments in such areas and the problems, as a result of this, can be seen in these tribal hamlets,” said Sreekandan.
‘Sabarimala not a decisive factor’
Like the Left candidate in Palakkad, UDF’s Sreekandan also believes that Sabarimala issue will not become a decisive factor in the polls and it will not, in any way, be an obstacle for UDF’s victory.
“People of Palakkad, like in other parts of Kerala, know that the BJP used the Sabarimala issue to boost their growth in the state. So there will not be a consolidation of votes based on Sabarimala as they claim,” says Sreekandan, adding that the CPI(M), too, is unlikely to get any support considering how they handled the Sabarimala issue.