Thiruvananthapuram: The joker in the pack in Thiruvananthapuram could well be the relatively low turnout of women here vis-à-vis other constituencies in the State as revealed by the Election Commission.
This is a politically significant counter narrative to the general perception that women, aggrieved by the LDF Government stance on opening up Sabarimala to young women, voted in large numbers for NDA candidate Kummanam Rajasekharan.
The fact is that more women had cast their votes this time as against previous elections in Thiruvananthapuram and they may have endorsed Mr Rajasekharan. This spawned rumours that the hardcore CPM cadre had cross-voted for UDF candidate Shashi Tharoor to ensure the defeat of Mr Rajasekharan. The logic is that Dr Tharoor had better prospects than LDF's own nominee, Mr C Divakaran.
However, CPM sources deny stories of cross-vote because they believe whatever gains Mr Rajasekharan had made in Vattiyoorkavu, Thiruvananthapuram, Nemom and Kazhakoottam could be offset by Kovalam, Parassala and Neyyattinkara. Recall the long queues of women in purdah in these coastal stretches and they are not for Mr Rajasekharan, for sure.
But the X factor in Thiruvananthapuram is how the UDF would shore up its support in Nemom, where Mr O Rajagopal, the BJP MLA, polled 67,813 votes in the 2016 Assembly polls. The difference is huge because the UDF polled a mere 13,860 votes. The question is whether Dr Tharoor would garner enough support in other constituencies to neutralise the Nemom difference of 53,953 votes.
True Parassala, Neyyattinkara and Kovalam Assembly segments account for nearly 6 lakh total electors and boast of a minority concentration.
CPM sources tend to believe that Dr Tharoor on his own account should be able to counter Mr Rajasekharan. But they also believe that Mr Divakaran commands the support of progressive sections and won't be surprised if he romps home.
Dr Tharoor suffered organisationally the moment the Congress decided to field Vattiyoorkavu sitting MLA K Muraleedharan in Vadakara to take on Kannur strongman P Jayarajan. His absence in Vattiyoorkavu hurts Dr Tharoor the most in the sensitive constituency, where Mr Rajasekharan was the runner-up in the last Assembly elections.
Another similar tactical error on the part of the Congress was parachuting Mr Adoor Prakash from Pathanthita district to take on Mr A Sampath in Attingal. UDF candidate Anto Antony rues the absence of a star campaigner like Mr Prakash in Pathanmthitta.
"The greed for a Twenty-20 seems to have worked against UDF", admits a top leader of the UDF....