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Candidates named, Kerala poll battle warms up


Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala's assembly elections are still over a month away, but the two main alliances in the state -- plus the BJP -- are already battle ready.

The ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party have announced their candidates.

Kerala will elect a new 140-member legislature on May 16.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has emerged as a new force in a state where power has been traditionally shared by the UDF and LDF.

On expected lines, the LDF was the first to name the candidates.

The NDA - which in Kerala primarily means BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena - was the second to finish the task. The UDF reportedly completed the candidates' list on Monday night.

The UDF is led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who will contest for a record 11th time from his home turf Puthupally in Kottayam district.

"Everything is ready for us. We are seeking people's mandate to become the first government to retain power (in Kerala)," he said. "Our agenda of care and development will be our strength."

Confusion still reigns in the LDF as to who their leader will be.

The two known rival CPI-M leaders, former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan and politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, are mustering their supporters to ensure they don't lose out in any leadership contest.

"Once the elections are over, the leader will be selected," said Achuthanandan when asked if he will be the chief minister if the LDF wins.

The BJP, which performed creditably in only three seats in 2011, has renewed its confidence after doubling its seats in the 2015 local body election to over 1,000.

The party has fielded all its top leaders, including state president Kummanem Rajashekeran. "This time things will be different," Rajashekeran said.

With their candidates named, the three fronts are finalizing their campaign strategy.

Candidates who have already begun their campaign include comedy actor Jagadish of the Congress who is taking on two of his colleagues from the film industry in the Pathanapuram constituency in Kollam.

He is pitted against K.B. Ganesh Kumar of the LDF and another-turned-politician Bheemen Reghu of the BJP.

Former Indian cricketer S. Sreesanth is another 'glamour' candidate of the BJP - for the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram constituency. He arrives here on Wednesday to start his campaign.

An interesting turn to Kerala's elections was provided on Monday by a party other than the three political fronts.

The AIADMK, led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, said it will contest seven Kerala seats, fielding Biju Ramesh, the whistle blower liquor bar owner, from Thiruvananthapuram.

Ramesh revealed corruption in the Chandy cabinet and caused sleepless nights to many in the ruling party.

It will not be until the first week of May when the campaign is going to peak.

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