By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the candidates of the three major political fronts filing their nominations, the state is set for an absorbing contest for the five Assembly by-elections from the State.
Like in Pala, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has had a head-start in the poll campaign having finalised its candidates without any hassles.
Understandably, the CPI(M)’s confidence is high in the wake of the historic victory the LDF scored in Pala by-election, ending the 54-year-old monopoly of the Kerala Congress(M), a constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF), on the seat.
The CPI(M) is contesting in all the five constituencies. The party has selected comparatively younger candidates for the poll battle this time. This itself is a welcome departure from its earlier policy of experimenting with Independents in seats where the party is not all that strong.
The policy decision is indicative of the confidence it has acquired post-Pala victory. It must be mentioned in this context that, except Arur, a CPI(M) stronghold, the other constituencies, Ernakulam, Manjeswaram, Konni and Vattioyurkavu have by and large backed UDF candidates in the past.
That is set to change in this round, predict CPI(M) poll managers. The voting pattern that was seen in the Lok Sabha elections and which favoured the Congress, will not be witnessed in the assembly by-elections, they assert. The minorities who solidly backed the Congress in the LS poll, will shift their allegiance to the CPI(M), having realised their ‘mistake’. That is the crux of their argument. The minorities, they claim, now know that when it comes to fighting the communal forces led by the BJP, the CPI)M)is a better bet in the State. The Congress had betrayed their trust as a number of Congress leaders at the national level defected to the BJP after the LS polls.
It is this change of the minority mindset that has helped the LDF to wrest Pala from the KC(M), the LDF poll managers point out. The story, therefore, will be the same in the five constituencies which are going to the polls now.
This is in glaring contrast to the fierce infighting which marked the candidate-selection process both in the Congress and the BJP.
The Congress camp witnessed a bitter tussle between the A and I groups. The selection of candidate for Konni led to an ugly spat. Senior Congress leader Adoor Prakash(MLA from Konni) whose election to the Attingal LS seat, caused the by-election, made no secret of his displeasure. Prakash was angry as his candidate, Robin Peter was replaced by P. Mohanraj who belongs to the rival group. True, Prakash has relented a bit following the intervention of KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran and leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala. But the bickering has left a trail of bitterness. And it remains to be seen whether Prakash’s supporters will wholeheartedly work for the success of the Congress candidate. CPI(M) candidate here is young and dynamic K U Janish Kumar, a well-known figure in the constituency.
Vattiyurkavu presents a similar picture of bickering and tussle for supremacy. Here K Muraleedharan, MLA whose election to the Lok Sabha from Vadakara, caused the by-election, wanted senior party leader N. Peethambara Kuerup to contest. But local leaders opposed saying Kurup is not a winning candidate. The party ticket therefore went to K. Mohan Kumar, not a Muraleedharan loyalist. The resultant resentment is bound to reflect in the voting pattern in Vattiyurkavu, where the BJP is a force to reckon with.
In Arur, a CPI(M) stronghold, the Congress has fielded Shanimol Usman, who lost to CPI(M)’s AM Arif in the Alappuzha Lok Sabha battle. The sailing was not smooth for Usman either. The question is : will she prove lucky in Arur? CPI(M) sources have no doubt that Shanimol will once again be at the receiving end. The CPI(M) candidate is Manu Pulikkal, a young and acceptable face in the constituency. Manu will win hands down this time, assert CPI(M) poll managers.
Manjeswaram also saw the rift in the Indian Union Muslim League, whose candidate MC Kamaruddin is contesting from the seat. Local League leaders have not taken kindly to Kamaruddin’s candidature. The beneficiary could be CPI(M) candidate, Shankar Ray, a dynamic youth leader or BJP’s Raveesh Thantri. Although the CPI(M) came third last time, Ray would put up a fierce fight this time and could even romp home the winner given the rift in IUML and the bickering in B JP.
Incidentally, BJP’s K. Surendran lost the last election from Manjeswaram by mere 89 votes! The local BJP leaders are also unhappy with Thantri’s candidature as he had lost elections in the past. Surendran would have certainly won from the seat this time, they contend. But groupism in BJP prevented the latter from contesting from there.
The BJP infighting reached its zenith in Vattiyurkavu. Former BJP state chief Kummanam Rajashekharan was named the candidate first. But he was replaced b y BJP’s Thiruvananthapuram district chief S. Suresh later. Kumman himself voiced his disappointment publicly. The RSS, who favours Kumman, is also bitter. And this is expected to affect the chances of Suresh who is otherwise a good candidate.
Here again, the beneficiary could be CPI(M);s V K Prashanth, the dynamic Thiruvananthapuram Mayor who is immensely popular in the constituency. The growing perception is that Prashanth could spring an ugly surprise on both the Congress and the BJP this time, and erase the party’s humiliation of having come third in the last election. .
CPI(M) candidate in Ernakulam. Manu Roy, an advocate by profession is expected to put up a tough fight against Congress’s TJ Vinod, a loyalist of Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden. Will veteran Congress leader KV Thomas who was hopeful of being the party candidate from Ernakulam throw his full weight behind the party candidate this time? That is the big question. If Thomas Master keeps a low profile, Congress could be in for a surprise. BJP candidate CG Rajagopal is a lightweight with little influence in the constituency.
The CPI(M)’s assessment is that the party will surely win Arur. The party could wrest both Manjeswaram and Vattiyurkavu from Congress. Konni and Ernakulam will also witness a bitter c and close contest. The byelections are scheduled to be held on October 21. (IPA Service)