KOCHI: Dashing LDF’s hopes of ‘scoring a century’ in the Kerala assembly, UDF’s Uma Thomas on Friday registered a spectacular win in the Thrikkakara bypoll, defeating CPM’s Dr Jo Joseph by a record margin of 25,016 votes. With this, the tally in the assembly remains: LDF 99, UDF 41.The win in its bastion — UDF has never lost in Thrikkakara since the constituency’s formation in 2011 — provides Congress with a new-found energy after its drubbing in the 2021 assembly polls.
For LDF, the loss is a setback for its ambitious SilverLine high-speed rail project, which the front had projected as beneficial for the constituency, and the front’s massive campaigning unleashed through ‘captain’ Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The CPM district leadership, however, denied — as soon as the results were announced — that the CM had led the campaign.
The victory margin of Uma, wife of the late PT Thomas whose demise in December necessitated the byelection, is the highest in the constituency, surpassing Benny Behanan’s 22,313 in the 2011 assembly elections. It is also higher than PT’s victory margin of 14,329 votes in 2021. While Uma polled 72,770 votes, Dr Jo Joseph secured 47,754 votes. BJP’s A N Radhakrishnan received just 12,957 votes, 2,526 less than the party’s tally in 2021. BJP also lost the deposit as it failed to secure even 10% of total votes.
From start to finish of the counting, it was Uma all the way. Uma, who led by two votes after the postal votes were counted, took an early lead of 2,163 votes when the first round of counting ended. She extended her lead in every round, crossing the 10,000-mark at the end of the fifth with 11,413 votes. This increased to 16,253 votes in the sixth round. The lead hit 24,300 votes in the penultimate round, finally resting at 25,016 votes. In none of the rounds could LDF reduce Uma’s lead.
Understandably, the Congress was ecstatic. “This is a recognition of all the hard work done by our workers. This is just the beginning of the party’s revival. We have to build from here,” said Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan, who took charge after the Congress’ poor show in the 2021 assembly elections.
CM did not lead campaign, says CPM dist leadership
Congress state president K Sudhakaran called for the resignation of the Chief Minister. Congress veteran A K Antony said people had given a “shock treatment” to Pinarayi, while former CM Oommen Chandy said the people have rejected the SilverLine project. “LDF has no right to talk about development in Ernakulam, where UDF brought in a slew of big projects,” Chandy said.
A big factor that aided Congress was Twenty20’s decision not to contest. In 2021, the candidate of the corporate-backed outfit secured 13,897 votes. This time, it urged supporters to vote as per ‘conscience’. The outcome indicates these votes may have consolidated in Congress’ favour. “We did not tell our supporters whom they should vote for. However, it seems they knew what to do. We hope LDF learns its lesson from this election,” said Sabu Jacob, Twenty20 chief coordinator and Kitex MD.This was indirectly admitted by CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. “UDF was able to bring all anti-Left forces together,” he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
The big loss in this otherwise inconsequential byelection is also a severe blow to LDF considering that it took the contest as a prestige fight. The CM, all ministers, LDF convener, CPM state secretary and leaders of all its allies had camped in the constituency. The strategy to bring Congress leader K V Thomas into its fold also backfired. “If at all, it had a negative impact,” said Sebastian Paul, a Left fellow traveller and former MLA and MP.
A visibly-shocked CPM district secretary C N Mohanan denied Pinarayi led the campaign, stressing that the result was not a reflection of the government’s performance. “The CM campaigned following our request. Yes, the result is really unexpected, unbelievable even, especially the huge lead, given our work” he said.On the other hand, the outcome is being considered a big boost for Satheesan, who, along with his young team led by MP Hibi Eden and MLAs Shafi Parambil and Roji M John, executed the winning strategy.