Kerala heading for a prestigious by-poll

Kerala heading for a prestigious by-poll

Representative image. (AFP)

Kerala is gearing up for a prestigious political battle with the by-polls on September 23 to an Assembly constituency vacated by the death of Kerala Congress leader K M Mani who held it for the last 50 years.

The Election Commission on Sunday announced the by-poll to the Pala constituency in Kottayam district. Counting will be on September 27.

K M Mani had been the MLA of Pala constituency since 1965. He won from the constituency despite major allegations of accepting bribes from bar owners for altering the state's liquor policy.

After his death in April this year, the Kerala Congress (M) party headed by him has split owing to a power struggle between factions led by his son and Rajya Sabha MP Jose K Mani and former minister and veteran leader P J Joseph. The KC(M) has been a coalition partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala. The ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is hoping to cash in on the split in the KC (M) and win the Pala constituency.

As soon as the Election Commission announced the by-poll dates on Sunday, the UDF leaders initiated a damage control exercise by stating that the UDF would be deciding the candidate for Pala without any differences. "The differences within the KC (M) would not affect UDF's prospects in the elections," said Kerala PCC president Mullapally Ramachandran.

Already there were reports that Jose K Mani is pushing for his wife Nisha Jose as UDF candidate.

For the LDF, the by-poll is an opportunity to reduce the damage it suffered in the Lok Sabha polls in which it lost 19 out of the 20 seats in Kerala. NCP leader Mani C Kappan, who earlier contested against K M Mani at Pala, is likely to be the LDF candidate this time as well. As K M Mani's victory margin kept coming down over the last three elections, sources say there is a better chance of the LDF winning the constituency this time.

Meanwhile, five more by-polls are in the offing in Kerala, due to the death of sitting MLA of Manjeshwar in Kasargod, P B Abdul Razak and victory of four sitting MLAs of Kerala in the Lok Sabha polls.

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