Thiruvananthapuram: While BJP is striving hard to open its maiden account in Kerala in the 16 May Assembly polls, Nemom near here is one of the segments where the saffron party pins its hope the most with the party fielding its most popular face, octogenarian O Rajagopal.
It was a case of the proverbial slip between the cup and lip for Rajagopal, a Minister in the Vajpayee government at the Centre, who had tried his luck in Parliament and Assembly polls before.
Unfazed by his four consecutive electoral defeats in the last five years, the 83-year-old leader is going ahead with his fierce campaign against CPI(M)-LDF's vibrant sitting MLA V Sivankutty. JD(U)-UDF's V Surendran Pillai, a former state minister, is also in the fray.
BJP's expectation is high as Rajagopal had polled 50,076 in the constituency against Congress's Shashi Tharoor who got 32,639 in the last Parliament elections.
He was a candidate in the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, that consists Nemom also.
He also garnered 43,661 votes during the 2011 Assembly polls at Nemom and came second to CPI(M)'s Sivankutty in a photo finish, in which the victory margin of the Left candidate was over 6,000.
In the last civic polls, of the total 22 wards in Nemom, BJP and LDF got nine seats each and UDF 4.
Though voters of Nemom had favoured both UDF and LDF in the past elections, BJP has emerged as strong force in the constituency with a remarkable voting share.
The constituency has a sizable Nair community votes which would determine the winning chances of the candidates.
Political observers predict a tough fight between Rajagopal and Sivankutty this time also at Nemom.
While BJP is banking on the popularity of Rajagopal, popularly called as 'Rajettan' and the development initiatives he had done as Railway Minister, CPI(M) is confident about cashing in on the familiarity of Sivankutty in the constituency as sitting MLA.
61-year-old Sivankutty, who kick started his campaign in the constituency in a wheel chair after he suffered a leg injury, is leaving no stone unturned as it is a prestige fight for him and LDF.
While LDF's main campaign points are the 'divisive and communal' policies of the saffron party, BJP counters it with the 'political violence', pursued by the CPI(M). Both the parties attack the UDF highlighting the corruption charges against its ministers during their last five years.
Besides these, local issues like shortage of drinking water facility and problems related to drainage system were also highlighted by various parties to woo voters.
Gopalakrishnan, a retired bank employee and a resident at Nemom, said the main fight is between BJP and LDF as the UDF's Surendran Pillai is a new face in the constituency.
"Not only that, Pillai, who was with the LDF as Kerala Congress (Secular) leader till now, has just switched over to UDF after he was denied ticket. This has given him a negative image," Gopalakrishnan said.