In a major victory for the ruling LDF in Kerala, the coalition candidate Mani C Kappan has won the bye-election held for the Pala Assembly constituency in Kottayam.
Mani C Kappan, a candidate of the LDF ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), defeated his nearest rival Jose Tom of the Kerala Congress (M) by a margin of 2943 votes. While Mani C Kappan polled 54137 votes, the UDF candidate Jose Tom got 51194 votes. NDA candidate N Hari got 1804 votes.
This is the first time in 40 years that the Left has emerged victorious in the UDF bastion, giving a big boost to the morale of the Left, which had suffered a significant setback in the recent Lok Sabha elections winning only one out of the total 20 seats in the state. The last time the LDF won from Pala was in 1980, but that was because their candidate was the formidable KM Mani who was the MLA of this constituency for 50 years.
The bye-election for the constituency, located in the central district of Kerala, was necessitated owing to the death of Kerala Congress (M) patriarch KM Mani in April this year. Pala had always remained a trusted fortress of the Congress-led United Democratic Front. With its headquarters in Pala, KC(M) and KM Mani had unilaterally dominated the political scene in Pala. Wresting the seat away from Maniâ€™s party Kerala Congress (M) and the UDF is a major victory for the LDF.
The split in the Kerala Congress (M) and the animosity between the Jose K Mani and PJ Joseph factions seems to have helped the LDF this time.
The bye-election was held on September 23. On Friday when the counting began at 8 am, there were tense moments for both the major fronts as the margin of difference between the two candidates always fluctuated between 2000- 4000 votes.
And this is the first time that the Assembly constituency elected someone other than KM Mani to the Legislative Assembly. For Mani C Kappan, a film producer and actor, itâ€™s his first entry to the Assembly after three consecutive defeats to KM Mani.
The UDF campaign for this election had been mostly around the Supreme Court judgement allowing young women entry into Sabarimala temple and almost all the UDF leaders alleged that the Left government acted against believers by implementing the SC order.
All the Left leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, were cautious in talking about the development activities of the Left government. The BJP, in contradiction to what they did during the Lok Sabha elections, abstained from talking about the entry of young women into Sabarimala, but kept their focus on the welfare measures of the BJP government at the Centre.
All the three fronts engaged in a ferocious campaign with a majority of prominent leaders visiting Pala on multiple days.
Jose Tom was the choice of KM Maniâ€™s son Jose K Mani, whom KM Mani had nurtured as his heir in the party. His opposing group in the party, led by MLA PJ Joseph, had not been consulted in the candidate selection and hence Joseph, who is the working chairman of the party, didnâ€™t allow Jose Tom to be granted the two leaves symbol of the party. Jose Tom instead contested on the pineapple symbol.