Campaigning for Chengannur bypoll in Kerala hots up

A cliffhanger contest is expected since all three rival fronts have a strong base in the segment

Chengannur (Kerala) — Campaigning in the Chengannur Assembly constituency for the May 28 by-election has finally gathered steam as the ruling LDF, the opposition Congress-led UDF and the NDA led by the BJP are pulling out all stops to woo the voters.

A cliffhanger contest is expected since all three rival fronts have a strong base in the segment, a rarity in Kerala where mostly the Left Democratic Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and the United Democratic Front have been traditional rivals.

The National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, with just one legislator in the 140-member Kerala Assembly, had finished a close third in Chengannur in the 2016 Assembly polls.

The bypoll in Chengannur was necessitated due to the demise of CPI-M legislator K.K. Ramachandran Nair in early January.

Nair had wrested the seat — a Congress stronghold for close to three decades — in the 2016 polls after beating young Congress leader P.C. Vishnunath, who had been aiming for a hat-trick from Chengannur.

While Nair secured 52,880 votes, Vishnunath got 44,987 votes and former state BJP President P. Sreedharan Pillai an impressive 42,682 votes.

The BJP has again fielded Pillai, who hails from the constituency while the ruling CPM has put its faith in Alappuzha District Secretary Saji Cherian and the Congress in D. Vijayakumar.

All the three fronts are leaving nothing to chance.

A victory will mean an icing on the cake for the Pinarayi Vijayan government as it is set to celebrate its two years in power a day before the May 31 result.

Congress’ Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who hails from the constituency, said: “We want to win back this seat, which for years has been our stronghold. We will leave nothing to chance.”

Cherian, however, is unfazed and is counting on the LDF government’s good work.

CPM State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “We are going to win easily as the UDF is on its way out as two of their allies in the 2016 polls are not with them at present.”

However, Pillai could face problems this time as the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a political arm of the SNDP that is a platform for the backward Ezhavas, is unhappy and is yet to come on board the NDA bandwagon for campaigning.

Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) supremo and BDJS founder Vellapally Natesan on Saturday said his party should field its candidate to “teach the BJP a lesson”.

Both the BJP and the Congress are waiting for the Karnataka elections campaign to get over on May 10, where their star speakers are busy canvassing, to give a further fillip to their campaigns.

While Congress leader and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony is likely to hold a road show in the constituency, the BJP is expecting party President Amit Shah’s visit towards May-end to boost its campaign.


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