In Kerala, LDF wins Pala byelection

Published : September 27, 2019 18:59 IST

Mani C. Kappan, who won the Pala Assembly seat in the byelection held recently. Photo: K.K. Mustafah

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala won a morale boosting victory when its candidate and Nationalist Congress Party leader Mani C. Kappan won the Assembly byelection held at Pala, a constituency that elected only the Kerala Congress (M) leader, the late K.M. Mani, as its representative ever since its formation in 1965.

K.M. Mani’s death in April 2019 left his regional party in turmoil, with a power struggle ensuing between his son and Rajya Sabha MP Jose K. Mani, who wanted to take over the reins of the party, and P.J. Joseph, the veteran working chairman of the party who was for long Mani’s party rival.

As it turned out, this infighting in the Kerala Congress (M), the opposition United Democratic Front’s third most prominent coalition partner, proved to be its undoing in this crucial byelection.

The LDF candidate, Mani C. Kappan, who had come second to K.M. Mani in three previous elections with ever narrow margins, won the key central Kerala seat by defeating Jose Tom Pulikkunnel, a nominee of Jose K. Mani, who was forced to contest without the Kerala Congress (M)’s election symbol.

Jose K. Mani had initially proposed his wife, Nisha, as the party candidate, a suggestion that was shot down by P.J. Joseph, in his capacity as working chairman of the KC(M). Both sides have been fighting a court battle on the question of the party chairmanship, an issue that is now sure to push the KC(M) towards yet another split.

Meanwhile, Mani C. Kappan won 54,137 (42.31 per cent) votes, 2,943 votes more than Jose Tom who got 51,194 (40.01 per cent) votes. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate, N. Hari, district president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, got 18,044 (14.10) votes.

In elections held in 2006, 2011 and 2016, Kappan, who is also known as a film producer, director and actor, had lost against K.M. Mani with decreasing margins of 7,759 votes, 5,259 votes, and 4,703 votes respectively.

In 2016, the NDA candidate, N. Hari, contested against K.M. Mani and Kappan and came third with 24,821 votes. This time, however, he got 6,777 votes less than his tally in 2016, leading to speculation about which coalition gained these votes.

This unexpected victory has come as a shot in the arm for the LDF as it gets ready to face five more Assembly byelections on October 21. In Vattiyoorkkavu (Thiruvananthapuram district), Konni (Pathanamthitta district), Aroor (Alappuzha district) and Ernakulam the byelections have been necessitated by the resignation of sitting MLAs who got elected to the Lok Sabha in the election held in April-May, and in Manjeswaram (Kasargod sistrict), the byelection is being held following the death of the Muslim League MLA Abdul Razak.

Four of these five seats were won by UDF candidates (three of them from the Congress) in 2016. Aroor was won by the CPI(M)’s A.M. Arif, who is now the party’s sole representative in Parliament from Kerala. In two of these five seats, Manjeswaram and Vattiyoorkkavu, the BJP managed to come close to victory in the 2016 election. In that election the BJP won its first ever seat in the State Assembly when former BJP Minister O. Rajagopal defeated candidates of the two Fronts in Nemom, the constituency next to Vattiyoorkkavu in Thiruvananthapuram district.

In the Lok Sabha election in April-May, the LDF lost 19 of the 20 seats in the State.

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