Kerala bypolls: LDF wrests Pala seat after 54 years

Kerala bypolls: LDF wrests Pala seat after 54 years

LDF candidate Mani C Kappen defeated Jose Tom Pulikkunnel of the opposition Congress-led UDF in a closely contested fight. (Credit: Facebook)

The ruling CPI(M)-led LDF in Kerala on Friday won the by-election to Pala assembly constituency, wresting the seat from the opposition Congress-led UDF. LDF candidate Mani C Kappen defeated Jose Tom Pulikkunnel of the opposition Congress-led UDF in a closely contested fight.

Kappen, leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, defeated Pulikkunnel, a faction leader of the Kerala Congress (M) by 2,943 votes.

Pala was a bastion of the Congress-led UDF, held by veteran leader and former Finance Minister K M Mani for the last five decades. The bypoll was necessitated due to the demise of Mani in April. The win has come as a huge relief to the LDF after its rout in the Lok Sabha polls.

The bypoll was viewed as an acid test for UDF and the BJP headed NDA as a victory would have given a boost to the prospects of the three major combines in the by-elections to five more assembly constituencies, scheduled for October 21.

While Kappen's victory is a big morale booster for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government, the results will put the UDF on the back foot for the October 21 bypolls.

The victory will also give Chief Minister Vijayan the confidence to carry forward his party's social and economic agenda in the state. During the election campaign, Vijayan had said the results would be the people's assessment on the performance of his government, which came to power in 2016.

"The bypoll victory will give strength to the LDF government to carry out its development works, as well as welfare activities more vigorously," he said in a statement. He thanked the people of Pala for "contributing a spectacular victory" to the LDF.

For the UDF, the rout in its traditional stronghold is a huge setback as it comes less than five months after the Congress-led alliance won 19 out of 20 parliamentary seats in the state in the Lok Sabha polls. "It is an unexpected defeat. We will study the reasons for it and move forward after rectifying the mistakes," former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters.

The Left leaders said the bypoll win would invigorate its workers and the momentum would be carried forward to the byelections to five other Assembly constituencies.

The BJP also suffered a huge blow in the byelection as its candidate N Hari, who had secured over 24,000 votes in the 2016 assembly poll from the constituency, secured only 18,044 votes.

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