Malampuzha: As the 'comrade general' of the ruling Left Democratic Front in its battle to retain power in Kerala, Chief Minister and CPI(M) veteran V S Achuthanandan is riding firm saddled in this red bastion of Palakkad district for the third consecutive time.
In a deft move, Congress has pitted its women wing leader Lathika Subhash against the 87-year-old Marxist warhorse to deflect the sharpness of his campaign, based on his claim as a relentless crusader against corruption, venality and sexual exploitation of women.
Though a debutant, Lathika has proved an astute campaigner having reached every nook and cranny of the sprawling rural segment, wooing voters, saying she is "the symbol of women of Kerala, denied justice under LDF rule."
Going by the history of Malampuzha, only a miracle can defeat CPI-M as it has unfailingly returned party nominees all these decades. Leaders who have represented the segment in the assembly include former Chief Minister E K Nayanar in 1980 and 1982.
Achuthanandan found a safer seat in Malampuzha in 2001 after his 1996 defeat in his home ground Mararikkulam in Alappuzha due to the machinations of inner-party foes.
He was elected from here in 2001 and increased his winning margin to over 20,000 in 2006. In both elections his opponent was Congress's Satheesan Pacheni, a youth leader from Kannur who was again humbled in 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Palakkad.
LDF maintained its lead in the area in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls as well as the civic elections last year despite the coalition suffering losses in and around the segment.
"We are sure of a thumping victory based on the party's strength and the popularity of comrade 'VS'. The Congress candidate's claims are just publicity stunt," a CPI(M) district functionary said.