The Election Commission on Thursday announced that the Chengannur bye-poll in Kerala's Alappuzha district will be held on May 28. The last date for filing nominations is May 10, while counting will be held on May 31
The election was necessitated by the death of KK Ramachandran Nair, who won the election contesting from a CPI (M) ticket in 2016. The 65-year-old MLA passed away on January 14, due to a liver ailment. He defeated PC Vishnunath of the Congress, who is a well-known youth leader in the state.
Chengannur had entered the poll-mode weeks before the official date was announced.
The Chengannur bye-election is a litmus test for the three fronts in the state in the backdrop of the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for 2019.
The CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front has fielded its Alappuzha District Secretary Saji Cherian. D Vijayakumar is the Congress candidate. The Congress leads the Opposition front, the United Democratic Front. The CPI(M) could benefit from opening its doors to former Congress MLA Sobhana George. She was once the Congress face in the Central Travancore region, but has been steadily sidelined. The CPI(M) could now induct her in the party and tap into her support base.
Former state president PS Sreedharan Pillai is contesting for the BJP in Chengannur. The BJP-led NDA alliance had posed big challenge to two major fronts of the state in the 2016 Assembly elections. Pillai finished third in the election by securing 42,000 votes. Hence, the BJP is understood to have fielded him without a second thought for the bye-election.
For the Left party, the election is crucial to prove that it has not lost public support, while for the Congress the situation is not too different. The party has to prove that it is still the main Opposition in the state, while for the BJP even coming to the second position will be a big achievement.
Recently, ties between the BJP and its main ally in the state, the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, became strained when the party refused to give BDJS leader Thushar Vellappally a Lok Sabha seat. The BDJS, which was formed by Vellappally Natesan, had joined the NDA ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls. Sources claim the prime motive for this move was to ensure his son got a plum post in the NDA. However, the BJP dashed his hopes. Chengannur, is one among the very strong few places where BDJS has strength.