THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite suffering a massive debacle in the byelection to the Thrikkakara assembly constituency, Kerala's ruling CPI(M) on Friday asserted that it would go ahead with its ambitious K-Rail project.
Addressing a press conference here, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the project will be implemented if the government receives necessary permission from the Union government.
The proposed K-Rail project, also known as the SilverLine semi-high speed rail corridor, connecting the north and south of Kerala, was one of the main poll planks for the Congress and the CPI(M) in the byelection.
Balakrishnan's statement came soon after Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly V D Satheesan urged the Left government to withdraw the project in view of the election results.
Making their proposed rail corridor, which is strongly opposed by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), as a major campaign topic in the constituency, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said it was a battle between the proponents of pro-development and anti-development.
Justifying the poll debacle in the Thrikkakara byelection, the CPI(M) said the UDF won the election as it was able to unite the anti-Left elements.
Congress candidate, Uma Thomas, on Friday won the Thrikkakara byelection and retained its stronghold defeating the CPI(M) candidate, Jo Joseph, with a historic margin of 25,016 votes.
Balakrishnan said the Left party lost the byelection, but its vote share has risen in the Thrikkakara constituency.
"The UDF was able to increase its vote share in the Thrikkakara byelection by uniting the anti-Left elements. The Left received 45,510 votes in the 2021 Assembly election in Thrikkakara. In this bypoll, the votes increased to 47,754. That means the Left received 2,244 more votes this time," he said.
Balakrishnan said the party base at Thrikkakara was intact as the vote share of the Left has increased to 35.28 per cent from 33.32 per cent last time.
The party leader said the poll result was not a referendum on the K-Rail project.
"This election was not based on K-Rail. This was not a referendum on K-Rail," Balakrishnan said when asked whether the election result will prompt the government to halt its ambitious Silverline rail project.
He said, "The project will be implemented if the government receives necessary permissions from the Union government."
The Left leader said the increase in votes for UDF came from those who voted for the BJP and the Twenty20 in the constituency during last year's assembly polls.
"BJP votes came down to 12,995 from 15,483 last time. Similarly, Twenty20, which had 13,897 votes last time, did not field a candidate this time," Balakrishnan said.
The CPI(M) state secretary said a sympathy wave was always effective in Kerala since the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
He said the party will introspect the result and work forward to improve its performance.
Meanwhile, BJP state chief K Surendran said a sympathy wave reflected in the election result of Thrikkakara.
"The election result is a setback to the Chief Minister and the Left government. A strong sympathy wave was reflected in the constituency...In effect, it was not Jo Joseph who was contesting there but the Chief Minister himself. The result shows that the people wanted to defeat the chief minister," Surendran said.
While the CPI(M) conducted an unprecedented grassroot-level campaigning under the Chief Minister in the constituency, Uma, the widow of prominent Congress leader and former legislator from the constituency late PT Thomas, showcased an impressive lead in all the 12 rounds of the counting since the beginning.
BJP nominee A N Radhakrishnan came third.
The bypoll was necessitated in Thrikkakara, an urban constituency which comprises a major chunk of the Kochi Corporation, following the demise of Thomas late last year.
Though Thrikkakara has been a Congress bastion, the bypoll captured the attention of Kerala as the ruling CPI(M)-led front had made an unprecedented grassroot-level campaign in the last one month fielding its top leaders and ministers.
Many Left leaders had openly told people that the proposed K-Rail project will not affect the bypoll result.
Meanwhile, the byelection victory was a morale booster for the Congress-UDF which had suffered a huge setback in the Assembly polls held a year ago.
The election has not made any difference in numbers in the state Assembly.
The Left front has 99 seats while with this byelection, the Congress maintained its 41 seats.
Uma Thomas is the lone woman Congress MLA in this Assembly.