Congress’ Shafi Parambil defeats KK Shailaja in Vadakara, wins by huge margin

Vadakara was Kerala’s star constituency this poll season, as it saw Shafi Parambil, Congress’s young sitting MLA from Palakkad, take on KK Shailaja, the CPI(M)'s much-loved woman leader and former health minister.
Shafi Parambil
Shafi Parambil
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After much speculation, the United Democratic Front (UDF)’s Shafi Parambil rose to victory in Kerala’s Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency with a margin of 1,14,506 votes. Vadakara was Kerala’s star constituency this poll season, with a dramatic face-off unfolding between the CPI(M)’s much-loved woman leader and former health minister KK Shailaja and the Congress’ young sitting MLA from Palakkad, Shafi Parambil. Though both candidates were next to neck in the early stages, Shafi consistently increased his margin as the counting progressed, winning with a total of 5,57,528 votes.

Shafi thanked the people of Vadakara and called this the victory of their secular conscience. He also said that his win reflects the voters’ faith in the Congress and its democratic principles.

KK Shailaja came second with a total of 4,43,022 votes, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Praphul Krishnan trailed far behind with a total of 1,11,979 votes. Responding to the numbers in the first round of counting, Shailaja told the media that irrespective of the result, peace must prevail and that this is not the time to be riled up about outcomes. She also added that the overall pro-UDF trend in Kerala was reflected in Vadakara as well.

Read: In Vadakara, KK Shailaja is the CPI(M)’s single stone for two birds

Vadakara has historically been a Left-leaning constituency with the CPI(M) or its allies winning 11 out of all 16 elections since 1980. But the constituency has been elusive for the LDF since 2004 when they saw their last victory through communist leader P Satheedevi. 

The formation of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) in 2008 by TP Chandrasekharan, an ex-CPI(M) leader who was formerly a central committee member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the Kozhikode District Secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), brought CPI(M)’s vote share in Vadakara down to 42.31% in the 2009 elections from 51.81% in 2004. Congress’ Mullappally Ramachandran won the elections and the RMP was a major vote-splitting factor for the CPI(M) with Chandrasekharan himself, who contested as an independent candidate, gaining a vote share of 2.53%. 

In the 2012 elections, the scenario changed drastically in Vadakara when Chandrasekharan was murdered by assassins who hurled crude bombs at him and hacked him as many as 51 brutal times. In 2014, 12 men were convicted by a Kerala court for the murder, including three local CPI(M) leaders. Though the party has consistently denied any connection with Chandrasekharan's death, the gruesome incident and the presence of the RMP have seminally affected the party in Vadakara. Mullappally Ramachandran rose to victory again in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, succeeded by Congress’ K Muraleedharan in 2019.

For the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, both the CPI(M) and the Congress played their best cards by pitting two strong candidates against each other. While sitting MP K Muraleedharan was moved to the Thrissur constituency, incumbent Palakkad MLA and the young face of the party Shafi Parambil was brought in as the UDF candidate in Vadakara. In the 2021 Kerala Assembly polls, Shafi had famously led the party to a significant victory against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “metro man” E Sreedharan. Vadakara’s sitting MLA KK Rema, who is also the wife of the late TP Chandrasekharan, rallied for Shafi, heavily coming down on the CPI(M)’s alleged political violence in the constituency. 

To counter Shafi, the LDF fielded KK Shailaja, lovingly called ‘Shailaja teacher’, hoping to ride on her goodwill to overcome the allegations against the party of propagating political violence. 

Sitting MLA from Mattanur and the current party Chief Whip in the Assembly, Shailaja earned public appeal and international recognition for leading the state through the Nipah outbreak and the coronavirus pandemic during her tenure as Kerala’s Health Minister in the first Pinarayi Vijayan government. In the 2021 Assembly elections, she emerged as the CPI(M) candidate with the largest margin of over 60,000 votes (a whopping 10,000 more than Pinarayi Vijayan), underlining her popularity among the state's people.

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