Fronts gear up for Kerala Assembly bypoll

| | Kochi

Discussions have started in Kerala’s CPI(M)-led ruling LDF, the Congress-led UDF and the BJP-led NDA to select their respective candidates for the Assembly bypoll to be held in the Vengara constituency in the Muslim-majority Malappuram district. As per schedule, polling is to be held on October 11 though the notification for the by-election will be issued only on Friday.

The Assembly by-election in Vengara has been necessitated by the resignation of former Industries Minister PK Kunhalikutty of the Muslim League as MLA from there after he was elected to Parliament in the by-poll in Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency which had fallen vacant following the death of former Union Minister E Ahamed of the same party.

Muslim League, second biggest constituent of the UDF, is confident of retaining the seat and this confidence is not unreasonable considering the demography of the Vengara electorate and its electoral history. In both the elections it had witnessed since its formation in 2011, Kunhalikutty had won that seat for the Muslim League with massive majority.

However, a new hope has dawned on the LDF that despite the clear leaning of the electorate of Vengara – an Assembly segment of Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency – has shown to the UDF in both the previous elections that, Muslim League need not be invincible there if it could put up a systematic campaign based on the achievements of the 16-month-old Leftist Government.

But the Muslim League has no doubts. “Our only concern is how to increase our winning margin. The majority with which I had won the seat in the last Assembly election had got improved in the Lok Sabha by-poll held in April. I am sure that the winning margin will still increase though I cannot predict the quantum at this stage,” said Kunhalikutty.

In the 2011 election, the first since its formation, Kunhalikutty had bagged the seat by defeating his LDF rival, KP Ismail of the Indian National League by a margin of 38,237 votes while the BJP candidate, Subramanyan, could claim only 3,417 votes.

Kunhalikutty retained the seat in the 2016 election by defeating CPI(M) candidate PP Basheer. Despite the massive anti-UDF wave lashing across the State during that election, Kunhalikutty won the seat by a margin of 38,057 votes. The BJP more than doubled the votes it polled to 7,055.

At least half a dozen names, including those of State general secretary KPA Majeed, Muslim Youth League leader PK Feroze and former MLA Abdurahman Randathani, have come up for candidature in the Muslim League but a final decision is expected to come at the leadership meet to be held in Kozhikode on September 18.

“Discussions for selecting the nominee will start in the Muslim League only after the issuance of the election notification,” said Feroze. Sources in the CPI(M)’s Malappuram district committee said that the party might  opt to field an Independent candidate in Vengara as part of a strategy to wrest the seat from the UDF.

Observers, however, are of the opinion that the Vengara by-poll is an opportunity for the BJP to bury the humiliation it had suffered in the Malappuram Lok Sabha by-election in which it had pathetically failed to put up a sparkling performance.

From the very outset of the Malappuram by-poll, the BJP leadership had claimed that it would surprise Kerala with its performance. The BJP and its nominee N Sreeprakash, contesting for the second time in the same seat, continuously claimed that the size of its vote kitty would treble but the party was in for huge disappointment when the votes were counted.

Sreeprakash could poll only 65,675 votes, just 187 more than what he himself had polled in the 2014 general election. The Muslim League retained the seat won earlier by Ahamed with Kunhalikutty claiming a majority of 1,71,023 votes to defeat CPI(M)’s MB Faisal,  comparatively less popular Leftist leader in the area who polled 3,44,307 votes. 



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