Palakkad (Kerala): In a literal young versus old battle, BJP's 'Metroman' E Sreedharan will take on sitting Congress MLA Shafi Parambil here for the April 6 Kerala Assembly elections, seeking to convert his technocrat charisma into votes.
A fierce triangular contest is expected this time in Palakkad, held by the United Democratic Front (UDF) since 2011, as the ruling LDF has also fielded a first timer, to take on the Congress and the BJP.
The BJP, buoyed by its success in Palakkad in the recent civic polls, has fielded the 88-year old Sreedharan to fight it out with the 38 year-old Parambil, seeking a hatrick of terms.
Clad in a pastel colour shirt and traditional dhoti, Sreedharan moves swiftly from one voterto another with folded hands and his trademark gentle smile.
At 88, age seems to be no barrier for Sreedharan to fit himself into the garb of a seasoned politician, as stated by his critics.
Talking to people gathered around and reminding them to cast their votes on April 6 Assembly polls, the technocrat-turned-political leader travels from one place to another quickly, mingling with the crowd at ease.
With the unexpected entry of Sreedharan in the poll fray as BJP nominee, Palakkad, the land of palmyra, paddy fields and chariot races incentral Kerala, has now captured national attention.
While UDF has once again reposed faith in Parambil, the ruling CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), fresh from its good show in the recent civic polls in the state, aims to upset the plans of the two national parties. It has fielded a new face, C P Pramod to take on the other two.
The UDF is banking on the popular image and personal influence of Parambil in the constituency and on various development and welfare initiatives implemented by him.
Of the total 1.37 lakh votes polled during 2016 Assembly elections, Shafi had garnered 57,559 votes while his nearest rival Shobha Surendran of BJP got 40,076 votes and CPI(M) candidate N N Krishnadas received 38,675 votes.
A constant presence in the constituency, the young Parambil could successfully establish close personal ties with different walks of people including those in various Hindu communities during his 10-year stint.
The Congress Legislator said he was sure the voters in Palakkad were happy with his performance in the last 10 years and would give him another chance to represent them in the Assembly.
Known for his firebrand speeches, Shafi is also the state president of Youth Congress.
However, Sreedharan seems unfazed by the youngster's popularity and is making all attempts to reach out to maximum number of voters in limited time.
He also seemed to be unperturbed about the controversies and criticisms raised by his political opponents.
The octogenarian recently hit headlines after photos of some voters washing his feet and others prostrating at his feet, went viral.
Though his critics alleged that the photos reflected his 'feudal mindset', an unfazed Sreedharan said washing elders' feet reflected Indian culture.
The former technocrat, who has vowed to make Palakakad city the best in the country in five years, talks more development and less politics during the campaign meetings.
"My main focus and priority is development. The BJP is fighting the polls on the plank of development," he said.
The BJP is pinning hope on its increasing vote share in the constituency, which comprises Pirayiri, Kannadi and Mathur village panchayats and Palakkad Municipality.
Palakkad Municipality is one of the two civic bodies in which the saffron party is in power in the state.
If the BJP's vote share in Palakkad was 19.86 per cent in 2011 Assembly polls, it increased to 29.08 per cent in 2016 and touched 29.76 per cent during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The saffron party hopes that Sreedharan's high profile persona and clean image would bring it rich electoral dividends.
It also wants to make a mark among the various Hindu communities, who seem have a soft corner for the UDF candidate, through Sreedharan's candidature.
Meanwhile, LDF nominee Pramod, entrusted with the task of taking on two big players, is making all possible efforts to reach out to maximum number of voters.
During the campaign, he highlights the development programmes implemented by the Pinarayi Vijayan government in various sectors, especially in health, education and infrastructure during the last five years.
His hopes lie on the votes garnered by the Left front in Palakkad Assembly segment during the last Parliamentary elections.
LDF candidate M B Rajesh had polled 32.83 per cent votes during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Palakkad Assembly constituency has 1,88,534 registered voters including 96,774 women and three transgenders.