Come September and Kerala will have two major events on the calendar – the state will witness a Parliamentary by-election as well as the festivities of Mata Amritananandamayi's 50th birthday, both of which will take place in Kochi.

Of course, the month will also be witness to the first of the early birds among international tourists coming to the state in the new tourist season.

The two events initially clashed with each other when the Chief Election Commissioner announced that the by-poll to the Ernakulam parliamentary constituency would be held on September 26, which happened to be the birthday of the internationally renowned Amritanandamayi, best known for her embraces that have provided cheer to many troubled souls.

Following petitions to the CEC by devotees of Amritanandamayi and political circles, the date of the by-poll was later changed to September 23. The clash of the two events would have posed serious problems for the authorities and the residents of Kochi because a galaxy of national leaders are expected for the Mata's birthday bash.

The dignitaries expected to take part in the birthday festivities include President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Deputy Prime minister L.K. Advani and several others. The arrival of such high-security VIPs in droves on the day of the poll would have made it difficult for voters to get to their polling booths on the day. Besides that thousands of Kochi residents would themselves want to take part in the birthday festivities and their plans would have been derailed if the two events fell on the same day.

The political circles are already discussing the candidates and their prospects in the by-poll which was caused by the untimely demise of George Eden who won with a thumping margin in the last election. Eden polled 394,058 votes which earned him a handsome 111,035-vote majority over his immediate rival, the Left Democratic Front-backed candidate Mani Vithayathil.

Eden's shock demise last month, and the fact that Ernakulam has been a stronghold of the Congress, makes the poll result almost predictable, but observers are keenly watching the developments within the Congress-I and other features like the candidate, his strategy and the support that the Congress-I candidate will get from various factions in the Congress.

Also watched will be the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate. In the last poll, the BJP candidate ended far behind the UDF and LDF candidates with 77,640 votes.

The Ernakulam constituency has often seen a Latin Catholic candidate emerging successful and the Congress may plump for yet another Latin Catholic this time, too. Since George Eden was a K. Karunakaran supporter, the choice of candidate is expected to be Karunakaran's. The veteran leader is already being approached by hopefuls.