Thiruvananthapuram: With battle lines drawn in Kerala as rival fronts have finalised their candidates for the elections, candidates, irrespective of party affiliations, are making a beeline to meet religious and social leaders. The most sought after ones are Christian bishops, besides the heads of powerful Hindu social groups like Ezhava leader Vellapally Natesan and Nair Service Society general secretary Sukumaran Nair.
Innocent, veteran character and comedy artiste and president of the Malayalam Movie Artistes, who is contesting as a CPI-M backed independent from his Chalakudy hometown in Thrissur district, was the first to hit the campaign trail and called on Natesan.
"Even though he does not have a vote in my constituency, he is a mass leader of a hugely popular group and hence I came to call on him and seek his support as people take his statements seriously," Innocent said.
The CPI candidate from Thrissur, C.N. Jayadevan, who unsuccessfully contested the 2009 polls, also came calling on Natesan to seek his blessings and support.
The 33 million Kerala population includes more than 50 percent Hindus, amongst whom the Ezhava community slightly edges out the Nair community. Then come the Muslims with around 24 percent, closely followed by the Christian community at 22 percent.
Christian bishops, especially Catholics, are a much sought after lot.
Dean Kuriakose, the state Youth Congress president, was a surprise selection in the Congress list and will fight it out at the hilly Idukki constituency. Last Friday, he travelled 120 km from Idukki to Kochi to seek the blessings and support of Cardinal George Alencherry of the powerful Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
"I met the cardinal and sought his blessings and support and very soon I will be meeting the Idukki bishop too and other Christian bishops," said Kuriakose.
Soon after Kuriakose left the church headquarters came his Left-supported political opponent, Joyce George.
The NSS headquarters at Changanacherry has already become a one-stop shop for many candidates. Among those who have already hit the campaign trail are CPI-M politburo member M.A. Baby and his political opponent, N.K. Premachandran, who are battling it out at Kollam.
And for all the Congress-led UDF's candidates, a visit to the residence of Panakkad Hyder Ali Shihab Thangal, the Indian Union Muslim League supremo, near Malappuram is also the order of the day.
Over the coming days, religious and social leaders can expect to be kept busy with all the candidates zeroing in on their residences one last time.