THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Just a day after the high-voltage open campaign in Pala came to an end, Kerala is set for another round of poll battle. Byelections to five assembly segments scheduled for October 21, could well be termed more of a political challenge to the opposition UDF than the ruling Left Front, as the former would be fighting to save its turf from the saffron front which is fast making inroads into Kerala. Reeling under the humiliating debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, it is also essential for the Left to protect its sole sitting seat in Aroor.
The battle for Pala, though a bypoll, witnessed high-voltage campaigns by both the LDF and UDF camps. While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan camped in the constituency for long, the opposition campaign was run by the Congress party rather than just the Kerala Congress. A crucial win in Pala is what both fronts are looking for.
The scenario is however a bit different in the five constituencies scheduled for elections. Of the five seats, Congress has three seats, IUML one and CPM one. With BJP pinning its hopes on Vattiyoorkavu and Manjeshwar, where it came second last time, the UDF will have to be more than just prepared this time. Though he lost to K Muraleedharan by 7,622 votes in Vattiyoorkavu in the 2016 assembly polls, BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan was able to improve his performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, where he lost to Shashi Tharoor. It is highly plausible for him to now reduce the margin in the Vattiyoorkavu assembly segment to just 2,836 votes. If the saffron party zeroes in on Kummanam once again, it could well prove to be a game changer for the party.
Similarly in Manjeshwar where BJP’s K Surendran had lost to IUML’s Abdul Razak by a slender margin of 89 votes in the 2016 assembly polls, it is going to be a tough walk for the League this time. If polarisation of votes against K Surendran was the prevailing scenario till now, with Razaq no longer in the picture, BJP is cautiously hopeful of wresting the seat from the League.
In the 2019 Parliament polls, BJP’s Ravisha Thanthri Kuntar had come second in the Majeshwar segment polling 57,104 votes, while UDF’s Rajmohan Unnithan got 68,217 votes and CPM’s K P Sathish Chandran was pushed to the third slot with just 32,796 votes. If BJP again chooses to go ahead with K Surendran, IUML will have to devise a few novel tactics to retain the constituency.
The UDF leaders meanwhile appear confidence personified, and have no doubts about winning all five seats. While KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran commented that the UDF will hit a ‘sixer’, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala is sure that the poll verdict would once again prove to be completely against the Left government.
Senior leader Oommen Chandy even pointed out that the significance of Pala bypoll has increased manifold in the backdrop of the recent Left rout in the state. A rousing victory for UDF in Pala would also be a confidence booster for the front in the coming bypolls. The Congress leaders, however, do seem wary over the saffron party’s prospects, that could probably emerge as a major cause for worry in the long term.
Though the results may not have a direct impact on the stability of the government which enjoys a comfortable majority in the House, the CPM-led Left front too seems to be approaching the bypolls with bated breath. Though retaining Aroor would be its first priority, improving its performance in other seats, is an added impetus.
With all the five being CPM seats, the party is likely to finalise its candidates by Tuesday at its state secretariat meet. Selecting candidate for Aroor is sure to be a challenge for the CPM. After being pushed to the third slot in Vattiyoorkavu in 2016, the CPM had actually conducted a party probe into the causes for its shameful drubbing. Nothing short of a victory would hence satisfy the ruling front this time.
Hence the CPM has now begun a frenzied search for candidates in Konni, Ernakulam, Manjeshwar and Vattiyoorkavu. The BJP factor will also be a major element for the Left while choosing its candidates. With the Pala results scheduled to be declared on September 27, it could well prove to be an indicator for the poll outcome in the remaining five.
On a short notice
With the bypolls around the corner, the limited time available for candidate selection and campaigning would also be the biggest challenge before the three fronts. The Election Commission has hardly given any time to the parties to select their candidates, who will have just a week to file their nominations, once the poll notification is issued on Monday.
In 2016 assembly polls, BJP came second in seven seats - Vattiyoorkavu, Kazhakkoottam, Chathannoor, Palakkad, Malampuzha, Kasaragod and Manjeshwar - in addition to winning Nemom.
Vattiyoorkavu, Konni, Aroor, Ernakulam - Seats fell vacant after MLAs elected to Lok Sabha in May, 2019.
Manjeshwar - Death of MLA P B Abdul Razak in 2018. A case in connection with the election in High Court delayed bypoll.
PREVIOUS ELECTION (2016)
VATTIYOORKAVU - K Muraleedharan (INC) defeated Kummanam Rajasekharan (BJP) by a margin of 7,622 votes
KONNI - Adoor Prakash (INC) defeated R Sanal Kumar (CPM) by a margin of 20,748 votes
AROOR - A Ariff defeated (CPM) defeated C R Jayaprakash (INC) by a margin of 38,519 votes
ERNAKULAM - Hibi Eden (INC) defeated M Anil Kumar (CPM) by 21,949 votes
MANJESHWAR - P B Abdul Razak (IUML) defeated K Surendran (BJP) by 89 votes.
Election notification: Sep 27
Last date of nomination: Sep 30
Scrutiny of nominations: Oct 1
nominations: Oct 3
Date of polling: Oct 21
Date of counting: Oct 24
Vattiyoorkavu, Konni, Aroor, Ernakulam and Manjeshwar
MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT
Applicable in T’Puram, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Kasaragod districts