Chengannur bypoll: Anxiety grips Kerala's political front

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. DH file photo

Not many bypolls have triggered such an excitement or uncertainty in the political scenario of Kerala in recent times as the Chengannur Assembly bypoll.

As the stage is all set for the bypoll tomorrow, an unprecedented anxiety has gripped the political fronts in the state-- the ruling LDF, opposition UDF and NDA as its outcome is crucial to all three as the Lok Sabha elections are hardly a year away.

The bypoll in Chengannur constituency of central Kerala was necessitated following the death of sitting MLA K K Ramachandran Nair (CPM) in January this year due to illness.

The result of the by-election is widely seen as a referendum on the performance of both the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government in the state and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, which has completed four years in office.

Winning the seat is significant for the Congress also as it is an opportunity for them to wrest its traditional constituency back from arch-rival CPI(M) and to boost the confidence among partymen who are gearing up for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

It is also rather rare to see a tough triangular fight among LDF, UDF and NDA in Kerala, which is known for its decades-long bipolar politics.

While CPI(M)'s Saji Cheriyan, the party's Alappuzha district secretary, is the candidate of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), Congress leader D.Vijayakumar is the United Democratic Front (UDF) nominee.

Former BJP president P S Sreedharan Pillai, who had given a tough fight to both LDF and UDF in the 2016 election, is testing his luck once again from the constituency.

The month-long electioneering witnessed an unparalleled fierce campaign by the fronts, who used all means ranging from attacking each other with 'communal cards' to highlighting 'achievements' of the state and union governments to win the hearts of the voters.

The CPI(M) had accused the Congress of fielding Ayyappa Seva Sangam leader Vijayakumar to woo BJP-RSS votes, which the latter had rejected.

In a tit-for-tat, Congress alleged that the Left party had a secret tie-up with the saffron party and CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was acting like BJP's'public relation officer' in Chengannur.

The major fronts also tried their best to bring Kerala Congress(M)-led by former minister K M Mani, which has a significant presence in the constituency, to their fold.

KC-M, which was a key partner in the UDF, had left the front after the 2016 assembly polls and was keeping an equidistance from all three fronts.

Dashing the hopes of the LDF and BJP, Mani recently extended support to the UDF in Chengannur.

During the campaign, the LDF focussed on the achievements of the Vijayan government and the "negative fall out" of the demonetisation and "flaws" in implementing GST and the alleged communal agenda of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.

At the same time, the UDF highlighted the "anti-people" policies of both the Centre and the state governments and the 'political violence' unleashed by the ruling CPI(M) in the state.

The BJP-led NDA also left no stone unturned for a victory as the saffron front had garnered 16 percent of the total votes polled in the constituency last time and came third securing around 42,000 votes.

The BJP is banking on the achievements of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

However, the sour relation between BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a key ally of the party-led NDA, is a worrying factor for them.

Chengannur, located in Alappuzha district, is one of the major transit camps of lakhs of Ayyappa devotees who visit the famed Sabarimala Temple in nearby Pathanamthitta district during the annual pilgrim season from November-March. 

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Chengannur bypoll: Anxiety grips Kerala's political front

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