Vengara bypoll: UDF retains seat; Khader wins by 23,310 votes

Vengara bypoll: UDF retains seat; Khader wins by 23,310 votes
The Opposition in Kerala’s Assembly, the United Democratic Front (UDF), on Sunday retained the Vengara Assembly constituency after its candidate K N A Khader of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) won the byelection by 23,310 votes.

In a constituency which has been an IUML bastion, Khader’s victory over P P Basheer of the ruling CPM was on expected lines. But a significant fall in the victory margin — IUML’s P K Kunhalikutty won in 2016 by 38,057 votes — and progress made by the CPM could offer new readings into the poll outcome.

Khader secured 65,227 votes against Basheer’s 41,917. Basheer, who contested from the constituency in 2016 as well, had then secured only 34,124 votes.

A byelection was called in the constituency after Kunhalikutty relinquished his seat to contest, successfully, to the Lok Sabha from Malappuram.

The poll result sealed a disappointing turn for the National Democratic Alliance with BJP’s K Janachandran finishing fourth with only 5,728 votes. K C Naseer of the Social Democratic Party of India, with 8,648 votes, secured the third spot.

The BJP’s P T Ali Haji had secured 7,055 votes in 2016.

For the Congress-led UDF, the victory could offer some respite, as top Congress leaders, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy are facing cases of corruption and sexual abuse related to the solar scam.

The CPM, meanwhile, is set to capitalise on its rise in acceptance in a traditional UDF stronghold. “For the UDF, this victory is technical, while politically, it’s a setback,” CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said.

Khader dismissed talks of an eroding vote base for the UDF and said the CPM’s response was not surprising.

“The CPM, through the government machinery, tried everything in its control to pull off what it hoped to be an upset victory. That has not happened. For the CPM, others’ electoral victories are always technical,” he told reporters.

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