Thiruvananthapuram fate hinges on Vizhinjam, coastal concerns

In interactions with people in the area (sample size of 35 people, location: Valiyathura harbour), the Newindian team found that voters are visibly uninterested in exercising their franchise. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the majority of coastal Thiruvananthapuram marched to the polling booths to cast their vote for NOTA over the main candidates.

| Updated: 28 March, 2024 10:57 am IST
Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The voting preference of fisherfolks in the Vizhinjam coastal zone will play a pivotal role in determining the electoral outcome in the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram constituency. Here, three heavyweights—NDA’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Congress party’s incumbent MP Shashi Tharoor, and CPI’s senior leader Pannyan Raveendran—are set to test the political waters.

The stances taken by these parties during the 140-day Vizhinjam anti-port agitation are crucial, directly impacting the livelihoods of thousands of families, mainly from the Christian minority supported by the powerful Latin Catholic church, constituting nearly half of the electorate in the coastal region.

In interactions with people in the area (sample size of 35 people, location: Valiyathura harbour), the Newindian team found that voters are visibly uninterested in exercising their franchise. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the majority of coastal Thiruvananthapuram marched to the polling booths to cast their vote for NOTA over the main candidates.

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“There has been no development in these areas for the past 10 years. I have not seen the MP here for many years, but if you ask me whom I will vote for, I will prefer Tharoor as I want the BJP government at the centre to be dislodged,” said Michael, a shopkeeper residing near the Vizhinjam port zone.

The CPI(M) maintained that ‘external forces’ were responsible for holding the protests, supporting the need for the Adani Vizhinjam port to begin operations. However, a large section of the Latin community and the church questioned the CPI(M) and alleged collusion with the Adani group. “How can we support the CPI (M)? They have cheated the people here. Initially, when the idea of the port had come up, it was them who opposed it, saying that it would lead to coastal erosion. But when they came to power in the state, they switched their position and stood behind the Adani group. Hence, we cannot trust them,” said Rickson George, a local sales agent in Vizhinjam.

Despite criticism of the CPI(M), some residents believe that left parties are preferable to Congress, citing their vocal stance on national issues. “We believe that CPI candidate Pannyan Raveendran should win this time as the left is more equipped to fight the BJP at the centre and not the Congress,” said Gracy Sebastian, a fisherwoman in Pozhiyoor, a coastal hamlet facing coastal erosion.

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Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar has garnered support from coastal youth by promising development in neglected areas. Luke Abraham, a third-year graduate from Vizhinjam, praised Chandrasekhar’s swift action on coastal erosion issues. In 2014, Shashi Tharoor secured victory, buoyed by coastal area votes. Congress hopes to repeat success, though fisherfolk’s demands, including halting port construction and kerosene subsidies, remain unmet.

The emotional issues of anti-port protests, attacks on minorities, and Manipur violence continue to dominate election narratives in fishing hamlets. Whether the narrative of development will surpass emotive issues remains to be seen.

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