Puthuppally bypoll: CPM admits setback, even as party base escaped erosion

Politburo member M A Baby indicated that the party will need to do some soul-searching.
LDF candidate Jaick C Thomas watching the election results on TV at the CPM Kottayam district committee office.(Photo | Express)
LDF candidate Jaick C Thomas watching the election results on TV at the CPM Kottayam district committee office.(Photo | Express)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  In death, as in life, Oommen Chandy hit CPM where it hurt the most. Even as the Congress recorded a landslide victory in Puthuppally, on the back of a sympathy wave set off by the former CM’s death, the CPM can take comfort in the fact that its core political vote remained intact. 

Though the Left leadership dismissed suggestions that anti-incumbency against the state government was in play, the majority patterns indicate that it did play a crucial role. The CPM is of the view that the sympathy factor was a game changer. However, it admitted the need for a thorough introspection before the 2024 general elections. 

Politburo member M A Baby indicated that the party will need to do some soul-searching. “The party, the LDF and the government will examine the reasons for the defeat and take necessary corrective action,” he said, adding that the huge victory margin needs to be evaluated closely. A couple of factors including the sympathy wave and accumulation of anti-Left votes need to be verified.  

Unlike in the Thrikkakara by-election, when the entire government machinery and party organisation was rolled out, CPM made a calculated move in Puthuppally. Barring Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the party only featured a few selected leaders for campaigning. The party was well aware that the emotion of the voters would be reflected in the voting.

At no time did the CPM try to mask the fact that Puthuppally is a UDF fortress. And it decided to contest the sympathy factor with its development agenda, and used its organisational might to transform the election into a political battle. But the margin of defeat was a bolt from the blue. 

“We didn’t expect such a margin,” admitted CPM state secretary M V Govindan at a press conference. “The poll verdict is not a referendum on the Left government. The LDF had contested the election politically. The UDF benefitted from the transfer of a good number of BJP votes. The basis for the UDF victory is the sympathy wave. In 2011, LDF got 36,667 votes. In 2016, it went up to 44,505 votes. This time, we received 42,000 votes. This shows that the base of the LDF has not eroded,” he said.  

In the CPM leadership’s estimation, Puthuppally held the LDF 25,000 less votes than the UDF. “Even in the 2021 assembly election when Oommen Chandy was battered by the solar scam and other allegations, the UDF won by 9,044 votes,” a state secretariat member said. “This by-election was marked by the sympathy factor, Chandy Oommen’s candidature and, above all, the CBI’s decision to give a clean chit to the former CM in the solar case. The Congress couldn’t have asked for more,” he said. 

The CPM pinned its hopes on Jaick C Thomas for a third time and tried to garner the political vote by raising the alleged underdevelopment in the constituency. However, the results show that the strategy back fired. “Last time, the CPM could garner more votes by cashing in on the anti-incumbency factor arising from Oommen Chandy’s over half-a-century-long innings in Puthuppally. This time around, those votes went back to the UDF. 

IUML: CHANDY FACTOR, ANTI-GOVT SENTIMENTS HELPED UDF ROMP HOME
 

Malappuram: The IUML has hailed the victory of Chandy Oommen in the Puthuppally by-election. Party leaders attributed the victory to the ‘Oommen Chandy factor’ and the anti-incumbency sentiments. IUML president Sadik Ali Shihab Thangal said that Chandy Oommen’s victory was anticipated due to his remarkable legacy. P K Kunhalikutty, national general secretary of IUML, said that the victory would bolster the confidence of the UDF camp. He emphasised the profound impact of  ‘Oommen Chandy factor’ in Puthuppally, portraying the late leader as a role model for politicians. 

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