In Kerala byelections, ruling LDF wrests two seats from UDF

Published : October 24, 2019 19:05 IST

In Ernakulam, thrilled at having voted, at a polling station inundated following heavy rain on byelection day, on October 21. Photo: PTI

R. Krishnakumar

The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) wrested two key seats from the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala; the Congress-led UDF created a flutter by winning a long-held CPI(M) stronghold in addition to two of its traditional seats; and the BJP was pushed to third position in four seats. This, in brief, is the result of the five byelections in the State held on October 21.

It follows another improbable byelection victory for the LDF in September at Pala, a central Kerala constituency that had, ever since its formation in 1965, elected only the Kerala Congress (M) leader, the late K.M. Mani, as its representative. The LDF candidate, Mani C. Kappan, won the seat with 54,137 (42.31 per cent) votes.

This time around, the ruling CPI(M) won in the capital city constituency of Vattiyoorkavu, a traditional arena of a stiff triangular fight where the BJP has been holding on to the second position, and Konni in Pattanmthitta district, a seat held by the Congress leader Adoor for the past 23 years.

The UDF also retained its strongholds of Ernakulam and Manjeswaram.

The byelections also mark a low for the BJP, a party that has improved its vote share in Assembly elections in the State in recent decades but is still struggling to win seats. The BJP, which has so far won only a single seat in the Assembly (from Nemom, a constituency bordering Vattiyoorkavu), emerged with its worst performance, even though it was expected to improve its share of votes in Vattiyoorkavu, Manjeswaram and Konni.

In Vattiyoorkavu, the CPI(M) fielded the young and popular Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram, V.K. Prasanth, ignoring the tradition of all fronts fielding only candidates from the Nair community, in a bold attempt to overcome its poor showing against both the UDF and the BJP in the past several elections.

Prasanth won with an unexpected margin of 14,465 over Congress candidate K. Mohan Kumar, a former MLA and Human Rights Commission member. Prasanth polled 54,830 votes, Mohan Kumar 40,365 votes, and the BJP’s district president S. Suresh, came third with only 27,453 votes—almost half the number that the party won in the previous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections when the former Governor of Mizoram, Kummanam Rajasekharan, was its candidate.

In Konni, the LDF’s K.U. Janeeshkumar secured a victory margin of 9,953 votes over the Congress’ P. Mohanraj. Janeeshkumar secured 54,099 votes and Mohanraj 44,146. The BJP’s star candidate, K. Surendran, secured 39,786 votes.

The Congress wrested the Aroor seat from the CPI(M). Its candidate, Shanimol Usman, who had also contested the Lok Sabha elections, secured 2,079 votes more than the LDF Independent candidate, Manu C. Pulickal. Shanimol secured 69,356 votes, the LDF candidate 67,277 votes and the BJP’s K.P. Prakash Babu 16, 289 votes.

The Congress retained its traditional Ernakulam seat, though with a much-reduced margin of 3,750 votes in an election that recorded the lowest polling percentage, a result of the heavy rain all over Kerala on polling day.

In 2016, the party’s victory margin was 21,949 votes. In the Lok Sabha election in April-May, the Congress’ Hiby Eden secured a majority of 31,178 votes in this Assembly segment. This time, the Congress’ T.J. Vinod got 37,891 votes; the LDF Independent Manu Roy secured 34,141 votes, and the BJP’s C.G. Rajagopal 13,351 votes.

In Manjewsaram, in north Kerala, the UDF candidate, the Muslim League’s M.C. Kamaruddin, defeated the BJP’s Ravisha Tantri Kuntar by 7,923 votes. Kamaruddin secured 65,407 votes and Ravisha Tantri Kuntar 57,484 votes. The LDF came third, its candidate, Shankar Rai, securing 38,233 votes.

The results do not upset the strength of the two major political fronts led by the CPI(M) and the Congress in the State Assembly, nor are they a challenge to the LDF Government. But in a State where elections to local bodies are just round the corner and the Assembly elections are set to be held thereafter in 2021, the byelection outcome leaves important messages for the all political formations.

Winning three of the six (including Pala) constituencies from the opposition is a morale boosting outcome for the CPI(M)-led front, which was yet to recover from its shocking defeat in 19 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats barely five months earlier.

The byelection at Pala was necessitated by the death of the veteran Kerala Congress leader K.M. Mani. The October 21 byelections at Vattiyoorkavu (Thiruvananthapuram district), Konni (Pattanamthitta district), Aroor (Alappuzha district) and Ernakulam followed the resignation of sitting MLAs who got elected to the Lok Sabha. The byelection in Manjeswaram (in Kasargod sistrict), was as a result of the death of the Muslim League MLA Abdul Razak.

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