'Wrong candidates cost UDF 'dearly' in Kerala bypolls'

P C Chacko

The selection of wrong candidates and factional fights in the Congress in Kerala have cost the party-led United Democratic Front (UDF) "dearly" in the October 21 assembly bypolls in the state, senior Congress leader P C Chacko said on Monday.

Chacko said the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) wrested the Konni assembly seat in Pathanamthitta district from the Congress, which held it for nearly 23 years. Similarly, the Vattiyoorkavu seat, held by the Congress since 2011, was lost to the LDF's CPM candidate, he said.

"The Congress would have gained these two seats if only the winning ability of the nominees was considered and the right candidates selected instead of succumbing to pressure from factions," Chacko told PTI in an interview.

"These have cost the party-led UDF dearly in the bypolls," Chacko, who is also the Congress' Delhi unit in-charge, said.

He said the only point of consolation is that the UDF was able to win with a margin of 2,079 votes the Aroor seat in Alappuzha district, considered a "citadel" of the CPM for the last 42 years.

Five assembly seats went to bypolls on October 21.

Two seats were won by the LDF and UDF won the remaining three of which Congress won two and IUML one.

The Congress leader also dismissed reports that the BJP's poll-percentage had improved in the elections.

People have dashed the BJP's hopes of gaining a foothold in Kerala. The party tried to make a footing by raising Sabarimala and other religious issues, Chacko said.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict on September 28 last year, overturned the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple’s ban on women of menstruating age (10-50 years) from entering the hill shrine.

Chacko, who is a former Lok Sabha MP from Thrissur, claimed that people and Ayyappa devotees are with the Congress as it had taken up the issue to the Supreme Court by filing a review petition.

While the LDF had taken decisions against the people's religious beliefs and sentiments on the Ayyappa temple issue, the BJP has not been able to take a firm stand and “is wishy-washy”, he alleged.

In the 140-member Kerala assembly, the BJP has a lone member.

Four of the five seats fell vacant following the general elections when MLAs had contested and won. The fifth seat Manjeshwaram became vacant when P B Abdul Razak of the UDF’s Muslim League, passed away in October 2018.

In the LS poll, the UDF won 19 of the 20 seats, and LDF one.

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