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CPI-M hopes to stop Premachandran at Kollam (Constituency Profile)

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IANS
For the ruling CPI-M in Kerala, one seat it is desperate to win back is Kollam for more reasons than one. For that, the party will have to get the better of sitting member N.K. Premachandran, which is no easy task.
Premachandran, 58, belongs to the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), which today is an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, while in the rest of the country, the RSP is with the Left forces led by the CPI-M.
Incidentally, the faction of the then RSP, of which Premachandran was a part, was in the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and he was a minister in the V.S. Achuthanandan cabinet between 2006 and 2011.
He had earlier represented Kollam in the Lok Sabha in 1996 and 1998, when the undivided RSP was a part of the LDF.
But ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when the faction to which Premachandran belonged decided to merge with the RSP led by Shibhu Baby John, which was with the UDF, the one condition was that Premachandran be allowed to contest the Kollam Lok Sabha seat. The Congress agreed to this by withdrawing its sitting member, Peethambara Kurup.
A stunned CPI-M, which saw one of its trusted allies shifting base to the UDF, decided to field one of their tallest leaders to take him on. That was when sitting legislator and former state minister M.A. Baby, whose Kundara assembly constituency was part of the Kollam Lok Sabha constituency, was brought in.
With Premachandran shifting his allegiance, the then CPI-M state secretary and present Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was leading the election campaign against Premachandran, went hammer and tongs against him in all his speeches. What came as a blessing in disguise for Premachandran was when Vijayan described the deserter as a 'para naari' (stinker, scoundrel or scum). That created huge sympathy for Premachandran, who romped home with a margin of over 37,000 votes.
Now, with Vijayan having the final say in all matters pertaining to the ruling LDF, showing the door to Premachandran has become more than a prestige issue for him. For this, he has brought in 55-year-old energetic former Rajya Sabha member K.N. Balagopal, who is the Kollam district CPI-M secretary.
Balagopal was the political secretary to Chief Minister V.S Achuthanandan from 2006 to 2010, after which he was made a member of the Rajya Sabha for one term.
The CPI-M, on paper looks like it's on a strong wicket as Kollam district has 11 assembly constituencies and all of them were won by the LDF in the April 2016 assembly polls.
While both the candidates belong to the Hindu Nair community, it could be touch and go on who would get the blessings of the NSS.
Premachandran hopes that the strong position taken by the powerful NSS (the socio cultural body of the Nairs) for protecting the tradition and culture of the Sabarimala temple will work in his favour as the Vijayan government was keen to implement the apex court order to open the temple to women of all age-groups.
However, Balagopal feels that his eldest brother -- a cash-rich contractor, an office-bearer of the NSS who has high standing in the community -- would hold the edge against Premachandran.
The BJP has fielded K.V.Sabu.
Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats. In 2014, the UDF won 12 and the Left won 8.
(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)
--IANS
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First Published: Mar 31 2019 | 12:52 PM IST

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