ALAPPUZHA: A prominent woman leader of the Congress in Kerala, Shanimol Usman rose from the ranks by sheer hard work. Though she got many opportunities to contest the elections, victory eluded her each time. Hers is the case of the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip. But this time, she broke the jinx and emerged victorious in the byelection in Aroor.
Earlier, she had contested the assembly election from Perumbavoor constituency against CPM’s Saju Paul only to be defeated by a margin of 12,461 votes. During the 2016 Assembly elections, the Congress fielded her against P Unni of the CPM in Ottappalam constituency only to be defeated by 16,088 votes. This led to a feeling in the party that Shanimol was not a winnable candidate.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when a pro-Congress wave swept the state gifting the UDF 19 of the 20 seats, Shanimol was the only party candidate to bite the dust. She was defeated by CPM’s A M Ariff in Alappuzha by a slender margin of 10,474 votes. Though she had secured a lead of 648 votes in Aroor Assembly constituency, Alappuzha stood with the CPM.
When Shanimol was selected as candidate for Aroor assembly bypoll, many in the party were apprehensive about her ability to win the seat as it was considered a CPM bastion. With CPM deploying Ministers T M Thomas Isaac and G Sudhakaran to work at the grass root level and ensure the victory of the party, there was little hope for Shanimol as the Congress is known for its lack of efficiency in campaigning.
However, the sympathy of the voters, especially women, came to the rescue of Shanimol. Besides, the split among Ezhava voters, who traditionally support the Left front, also worked in her favour. The Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), the political party of the Ezhavas which is an ally of the NDA, was not active this time. It seems many BDJS voters voted for Shanimol this time as the vote share of BJP candidate plunged from 27,753 in 2016 to 16,289 this time. And the ‘Poothana’ remark allegedly made by Sudhakaran also worked in her favour.