Here, veteran trade unionist takes on senior Congress leader

Island North division, comprising a section of Willingdon Island, has 649 voters

The Island North division of the Kochi Corporation, comprising a section of Willingdon Island with only a small clutch of voters, will see a contest between a senior Congress leader and a veteran trade union leader, both known to people in the area.

N. Venugopal, a Mayor probable for the United Democratic Front (UDF), will contest from Island North this time, rather than the neighbouring Island South, from where he posted victories in 2005 and 2010. The Congress leader who has also represented the combined division of Island North and Island South in 2000, when the two areas were yet to be constituted as separate divisions, is confident of a win.

Pitted against Mr. Venugopal is Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate C.D. Nandakumar, general secretary of the CITU-affiliated Cochin Port Employees’ Organisation.

A debutant, he is banking on his sway over a section of port employees as well as familiarity with staff at other establishments, thanks to his tenure as a technician at the Port Trust. In two decades, the LDF has bagged the seat once, in 2010. Padmakumari T.A. is the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate.

With only 649 voters, the division could be one of the smallest in the State, Mr. Venugopal said. Restrictions on painting walls and sticking posters on government property keep the campaign muted.

The number of voters had been shrinking since 2005, when the coming of the Vallarpadam container terminal reduced the need for staff on the island and retirees were not replaced with new hires, he said. The figure had dipped from nearly 1,500 in the year 2000. The polling percentage stood only at about 50%, he added.

Mr. Nandakumar draws on this stagnation and the financial crisis of the Cochin Port in his campaign. “Kochi is a port city, but problems associated with the port, which is a significant source of revenue for the local body, have rarely become a subject of discussion at the corporation.

As traditional cargo handling activities fall at the island, we should be able to attract tourists, but the corporation has never had any sort of vision for the area, which has become dormant. The corporation can play a crucial role in its revival,” he said.

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