THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) won three of the five Assembly by-elections on Monday, but the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), which won the remaining two seats, could be doing the celebrating. The reason - they have wrested one additional seat from the UDF in the Kerala Assembly, taking their tally to 93.
UDF’s seats have come down from 47 before the Pala bypoll to 45 now.
While the LDF wrested two sitting Congress seats – Vattiyoorkavu and Konni, the Congress candidate won the Aroor constituency, a seat held by the CPM in the 2016 Assembly elections, and Manjeshwaram in Kasargode. For CPM, this is the party’s first win in Vattiyoorkavu since the constituency was formed in 2011. In Konni, the party is winning the seat after more than two decades.
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The five bypolls were necessitated after four MLAs (three Congress and one CPM) contested and won the recent Lok Sabha elections, while in Manjeshwar, the election followed the death of the Indian Union Muslim League (a constituent of UDF) MLA in October 2018.
The big surprise came from Vattiyoorkavu where CPM’s VK Prasanth, who is at present the Thiruvananthapuram mayor, defeated K Mohankumar of the Congress, by a big margin of 14,465 votes. The victory is sweet for the CPM as it was in the third position after the Congress and the BJP in the last Assembly elections in May 2016. The BJP candidate S Suresh finished third. The Vattiyoorkavu result is also a big jolt for the Nair Service Society’s (NSS) G Sukumaran Nair who openly urged the community to vote for the Congress candidate.
Konni, which is near the Sabarimala temple, also went with the CPM after its candidate Jenish Kumar defeated P Mohanraj of the Congress by a margin of 9953, a clear indication that the Sabarimala issue had little impact on the voters. BJP, which had been raising the Sabarimala issue, failed to strike a chord with the voters as their candidate K Surendran ended up in the third position.
For the UDF, the win in Aroor, where the Congress candidate Shanimol Usman defeated CPM’s Manu C Pulickal by a slender margin of 1955 votes, is the only positive. Aroor was a CPM seat, and the election to the seat was necessitated after its MLA AM Ariff contested and won the Alappuzha Lok Sabha election. Incidentally, Ariff defeated Shanimol in the Lok Sabha election in May.
In Ernakulam constituency, which is considered a Congress bastion, its candidate TJ Vinodh defeated the nearest rival Manu Roy, a Left-backed independent, by a margin of 3750 votes. Congress leaders Hibi Eden, MP, and VD Satheesan MLA attributed the low margin to the heavy rains and flooding in many parts of Ernakulam, forcing many of its traditional voters to stay indoors on Monday. “Considering that this was not a free and fair election, the victory of Vinodh is stupendous,” said Hibi and Satheesan.
Perhaps, the most unsurprising verdict came from Manjeshwar after IUML’s MC Kamaruddin defeated the nearest rival Ravisha Tantri Kuntar of the BJP by a margin of 7923 votes. The CPM candidate ended in the third position.