LDF retains Chengannur with a thumping win

LDF retains Chengannur with a thumping win

Left Democratic Front candidate Saji Cherian celebrates after winning the Chengannur Assembly bypoll by a huge margin of 20,956 votes. PTI

Kerala's ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) retained Chengannur on Thursday with CPM candidate Saji Cherian winning the by-election to the Assembly constituency by a huge margin of 20,956 votes.

Cherian secured 67,303 votes, while D Vijayakumar of the Congress party finished second with 46,347 votes, ahead of BJP's P S Sreedharan Pillai, who secured 35,270 votes.

The CPM more than doubled its 2016 victory margin in Chengannur, asserting dominance in Congress' strongholds in the constituency and denting the BJP's claims to have emerged as a viable political alternative in the state.

The party’s victory margin in 2016, when K K Ramachandran Nair won, was 7,983 votes.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the massive victory of Cherian, the CPM's Alappuzha district secretary, was the people's endorsement of the LDF government over its two years in office.

"This is a green flag by the people to the policies the LDF government has adopted," Vijayan told reporters here.

Cherian maintained a sizeable lead over Vijayakumar all through the counting of votes and the margin of his victory has surpassed expectations in the LDF camp.

For the Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), the result comes as a dampener when it’s mobilising a campaign against what it calls repeated failures in the enforcement of law and order.

The last-lap support extended by estranged former ally Kerala Congress (M) did not help the UDF. The third-place finish with a substantial drop in the number of votes is set to raise new, tough questions for the BJP as well.

Pillai, a former state president of the party, had also contested the 2016 election. NOTA polled 728 votes in the constituency.

The death of CPM's sitting MLA K K Ramachandran Nair, in January this year, had necessitated the May 28 by-election. The constituency registered a 76.25% voter turnout at the by-poll which had 17 candidates in the fray.

CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the by-election result proved that the "soft-communal" approach adopted by the Congress was ineffective in countering forces affiliated to the Sangh Parivar.

"Oommen Chandy had said that the election would also be a verdict on the Opposition front. Chandy, who is AICC general secretary now, should state if he still maintains this view," Balakrishnan said.

In the 2016 Assembly election to the constituency, Nair had secured 52,880 votes (36.38%), while the Congress' P C Vishnunath ended up second with 44,897 votes (30.89%). Sreedharan Pillai secured 42,682 votes (29.36%).