KOZHIKODE: After the Congress, the party which made significant gains in the state in this election is undoubtedly the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). Not only did the party phenomenally improve its performance in its traditional twin seats of Malappuram and Ponnani, but it also played a key role in raising Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's victory margin to a new state record of over 4.3 lakh votes.
By netting over 11 lakh votes from just two seats, the League was able to record its highest state-wide Lok Sabha vote share of 5.45 per cent in this election. The League is placed closely behind the CPI which garnered over 12 lakh votes, with a vote share of 6.05 per cent, from the four seats it unsuccessfully contested.
During the 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll in Malappuram, IUML’s P K Kunhalikutty had won with a margin of 1.7 lakh votes - the then second highest victory margin in the state. It was around 20,000 votes short of the 1.9 lakh victory margin that the late E Ahamed of IUML scripted in 2014.
However, this time around, Kunhalikutty clocked a lead of 2.6 lakh votes - the second-highest margin in the state after Rahul Gandhi’s. The League’s vote share in the constituency also surged to 57.01 per cent.
Ponnani myth busted.
In the run-up to the election, Ponnani constituency was considered a tricky seat by IUML leaders as three of the seven assembly segments under it had fallen into the LDF kitty in 2016. Tanur, Thavanur and Ponnani assembly segments were wrested by LDF-backed independents in the assembly polls, reducing the League’s margin in the Lok Sabha seat to a mere 1,069 votes.
Sensing an opportunity in Ponnani this time, the LDF deployed Congress renegade and independent MLA P V Anvar to take on two-time MP E T Mohammad Basheer.
“Their (LDF’s) gameplan was to take advantage of the IUML-Congress schism in some pockets of Ponnani. But the arrival of Rahul Gandhi ironed out all the differences and the UDF faced the election as a single unit,” said a senior IUML leader.
Belying predictions, Mohammad Basheer netted over 5.21 lakh votes from Ponnani with a victory margin just short of two lakh votes.
The RaGa factor
The IUML can also claim credit that a large chunk of votes from its strongholds of Eranad, Wandoor and Nilambur were instrumental in Rahul Gandhi scripting his record margin of 4.3 lakh votes. Despite the League losing Nilambur to Left-backed independent MLA PV Anvar in 2016, Rahul Gandhi could achieve a lead of over 61,000 votes from the assembly segment.
Wandoor and Eranad too saw Rahul’s victory margin crossing 69,000 and 56,000 respectively though the highest margin he got - over 70,000 votes - was from Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad district. Left-held Thiruvambady assembly seat in Kozhikode district too gave Rahul a lead of over half a lakh votes.