India polls: Shashi Tharoor faces two-pronged challenge from BJP, Left

The three-term MP is facing central minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar and CPI leader Pannyan Ravindran at Thiruvananthapuram constituency


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Shashi Tharoor, Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Pannyan Raveendran during a programme in Thiruvananthapuram. — File photo
Shashi Tharoor, Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Pannyan Raveendran during a programme in Thiruvananthapuram. — File photo

Published: Mon 22 Apr 2024, 10:33 PM

Former UN diplomat and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor will be seeking a fourth straight term from Thiruvananthapuram constituency, as he is up against a two-front contest against BJP's Union Minister of State Rajeev Chandrashekhar and Communist Party of India leader Pannyan Ravindran.

Tharoor, who has held the seat since 2009, is facing a challenge as the BJP has named a strong face against him. Chandrashekhar has served as the MoS for Electronics, Entrepreneurship and Information Technology.

Although CPI is part of the opposition INDIA bloc, but it is not in any seat-sharing agreement with the Congress party in Kerala. The CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has fielded CPI leader Pannyan Raveendran from the constituency, who won the seat in 2005.

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All 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in Kerala will vote in a single phase on April 26. Counting will be held on June 4.

In 2019, the Congress party registered victory on 19 out of the 20 seats while CPI-M could only win one seat. The BJP failed to open its account.

Chandrashekhar has put up his vision document for Kerala's capital city and has said that it will speed up the development of the constituency and will cover every segment of society. He also said that Tharoor and Raveendran have done nothing for Thiruvananthapuram.

He has also said the constituency has been deprived of development for the last 15-20 years and people are "craving" for jobs and development.

Chandrashekhar also said that the Muslim and Christian communities in the state are made "fearful" of the BJP through a "false narrative".

Tharoor, on the other hand, said that BJP's message is "not well received" in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and the party has very little hope from southern India.

"We live with people of all religions, all faiths, and all castes side by side. We share life, and we celebrate festivals together. Ours is a very different place from the kind of ethos that the BJP promotes in northern India and therefore their message will not get across here," Tharoor told ANI.

He also claimed that BJP would not be able to win 300 seats in the ensuing general elections and would lose its majority in the Lok Sabha.

"I am 100 per cent sure that the BJP is not getting anywhere near 300. They are going to lose their majority. Even if they lose a handful of seats, they are coming down," the Congress leader said.

The Congress leader also slammed the Communist Party of India for fielding Raveendran from Thiruvananthapuram and said that the move by the left party will only help the BJP.

"In the last two elections, the BJP came second, if they're (CPI) so concerned about opposition unity why are they undercutting my vote by running a candidate whose campaigning has been entirely against me? I have not heard the left speak against the BJP; they're speaking against me all the time and trying to take away for example, minority votes," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the high-profile battle between two veteran leaders took a bitter turn after Chandrashekhar sent a legal notice to Tharoor, wherein he alleged that the Congress leader, during an interview with a local news channel, made "defamatory statements" alleging that Rajeev indulged in illegal activities and offered money to voters.

He also alleged that Tharoor said that Chandrashekhar "is spreading lies among Christian communities".

Replying to the MoS' notice, Tharoor said in the notice that he has "knowingly or unknowingly not made any false and malicious imputations" against Rajeev to "defame or harm his deputation without any proof to support or validate the alleged claims".

In his reply, Tharoor asked Chandrashekhar to withdraw the statements and tender an apology, adding that if Chandreshekhar ignored the demand of the notice, the Congress leader would be constrained to prosecute him and initiate civil action against him.

The MoS also took a jibe at Tharoor over his resignation due to a link with the IPL team.

"Throughout my 18 years of public life, I have an absolutely stellar record. I did not have to resign from the government due to my IPL interests like some MPs had," Chandrashekhar said.

In 2010, Shashi Tharoor had to resign as Minister of State for External Affairs in the wake of the controversy over the IPL Kochi franchise. The matter pertained to reports that Sunanda Pushkar held equity stakes in Rendezvous Sports World (RSW), which headed the consortium owning the Kochi team.

Pannyan Raveendran said that the BJP is "irrelevant" in Thiruvananthapuram and the main fight in the constituency is between the LDF and the Congress-led UDF.

It is pertinent to note that the contest comes at a time when Congress and CPI (M) — two allies of the INDIA bloc — have been taking part in cut-and-throat campaigning while vehemently attacking each other.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan while asking why BJP did not attack him or why the probe agencies didn't act against him despite corruption allegations.

Hitting back, Vijayan said it was Rahul Gandhi's grandmother (Indira Gandhi) who jailed leaders during the emergency. He also said that PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi use the same language against Kerala.

Notably, the BJP has never won a Lok Sabha seat in Kerala, the party registered a victory in the Thiruvananthapuram district just once, with O Rajagopal winning the Nemom assembly seat in 2016.

In the 2019 polls, the BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan won 31.3 per cent votes in Thiruvananthapuram, the largest vote share achieved by the party in all 20 Lok Sabha constituencies it contested in the state.

However, with Chandrasekhar jumping into the fray this year, the battle for Thiruvananthapuram has turned into a three-cornered one and will be one of the most-watched contests in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.


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