Thalassery (Ker): A high profile electoral battle is in the offing in this Communist bastion in Kerala where CPI-M politburo member and state Home and Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is locked in a keen contest with young Congress nominee Rigil Makkutty.
The cradle of Communism in the state, Thalassery is no stranger to heavyweight contestants as previous representatives include former Chief Minister late E K Nayanar and former Supreme Court judge V R Krishna Iyer, who became Law and Irrigation Minister in the first Communist ministry in 1957-59.
This coastal town in Kannur district, the first headquarters of the British regime in Malabar region, has the reputation of favouring CPI-M candidates, except once when CPI veteran late N E Balaram won when his party was a constituent in the Congress coalition.
This time the poll battle has assumed significance from the start as CPI-M's initial plan was to go under Balakrishnan's leadership, keeping Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan off the arena.
The segment continues to be a crucial battleground for the party as 57-year-old Balakrishnan is the only politburo member contesting in Kerala and is certain to play a key role in LDF, whether it gets a fresh mandate or is destined to sit in the opposition.
The history of the segment shows LDF has a clear edge over UDF aspirant Makkutty, the state Vice-President of Congress's campus wing, Kerala Students' Union.
Balakrishnan, an astute campaigner who came up through the ranks, enjoys the 'man-next-door' image in his home turf which he has been representing in the assembly for nearly two decades.
The powerful poll machinery of CPI-M has been fully cranked up and has completed the first round of canvassing, covering every nook and cranny of the segment.
The UDF, on the other hand, has started a bit late as it was only last week its candidate was announced after several probable names did the rounds.