In about 50 of Keralas 140 seats, the LDF and the UDF have chosen candidates who, by virtue of their names, can potentially confuse voters and gain votes originally intended for their better known rivals.
Once they have filed their nominations, these namesakes dont campaign; they dont even appear in public. Their names in the electronic voting machine are enough.
The strategy has been known to work. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran lost by 1,009 votes from Alapuzha because VS Sudheeran had stolen away 8,282 votes, In 2009, four namesakes proved too many for the CPMs A Muhammed Riyas in Kozhikode. Between them they bagged 4,000 votes, allowing the Congress candidate to scrape through by 800.
This time, Poovalappil, who has been pitched against the LDFs Puthiyavalappil, is an Independent allegedly sponsored by UDF candidate K P Mohanan who himself has to face two namesakes, who match him initial for initial.
In Kannur, M P Abdullakutty is not the only worry for the Congresss AP Abdullakutty. He faces also a namesake of his mentor K Sudhakaran, the local MP. The Left is hoping confused voters will chose mentor Sudhakaran over loyalist Abdullakutty.
Contestants such as Ramesh Chennithala and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, too, face namesakes.
This has to stop, says Sudheeran - the Congress leader, not the namesake who ruined his election. Even enlightened voters were confused in 2004. Parties have to reach a consensus that they will not take such cheap steps, he says.
The Election Commission should make this a violation of the code of conduct, he suggests. But state chief electoral officer Nalini Netto says everyone has the right to contest and the EC cannot interfere. She suggests the mainstream candidates clear the confusion by adding details such as their address.
This worked once but those who field namesakes are now equal to the task. Last time, Kerala Congress leader P C George survived his namesake because he adding his houses name, Plathottam, in the ballot paper. This time, his namesake PC George has added the name of his own house, Ponnattuputhenpurayil. At times, even the symbols are designed to confuse. For example, if the mainstream candidate has a glass, the namesake would use a jug. For the namesakes of many Congress candidates, a common preference has been the shuttlecock, the idea being that the voter would confuse it for the Congresss palm.