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Kerala assembly bypoll: CPI(M) retains Chengannur, BJP’s ambition takes another hit

Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Cherian got 67,303 votes, Congress nominee D Vijayakumar received 46,347 and the BJP’s Sreedharan Pillai managed the third position with 35,270 votes.

india Updated: May 31, 2018 20:10 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala bypoll,CPI(M),Bypoll results
CPI(M) candidate Saji Cherian retained the Chenganur assembly constituency in Kerala with a record margin of over 20,000 votes.(PTI File Photo)

In a big boost to the ruling Left Front, CPI (M) candidate Saji Cherian on Thursday retained the Chengannur assembly constituency in central Kerala with a record margin of over 20,000 votes in a triangular fight.

The landslide victory in the bypoll is a major setback for the opposition Congress as well as the BJP, whose ambitious plan to make inroads in the state fell flat.

While Cherian polled 67,303 votes, Congress nominee D Vijayakumar received 46,347 votes and the BJP’s Sreedharan Pillai finished third with 35,270 votes. The by-election was necessitated following the death of KK Ramachandran Nair of the CPI (M) who had won the seat with a margin of over 7000 votes.

The result is a moral victory for the CPI (M), which suffered serious setbacks in Tripura and West Bengal recently, and cements chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s stature as a tall leader in the state. Though opposition parties tried their best to exploit the recent cases of police excesses, alleged political murders and custodial deaths the verdict shows these issues failed to curry favour with voters.

“It is a sweet victory and a clear mandate for the state government. It has also emboldened the government to take its developmental plans ahead. Our opponents’ move to divide the society on caste and religious lines was defeated emphatically,” said the upbeat chief minister.

A close look at the voting pattern shows the CPI (M) has made major inroads in traditional Congress vote-bank, minority Christians who form 22% of voters in the constituency. The Kerala Congress (Mani), a predominant Christian party, came to the rescue of the Congress at the eleventh hour but it made no difference.

For the BJP it was a humiliating defeat with its candidate losing more than 7,400 votes compared to votes it polled in the last election. The BJP had boasted that after Tripura it was a turn of Kerala to dump the Marxists and it even drafted in Tripura chief minister Biplab Deb in the election campaign. But the result has clearly dented the saffron party’s ambitions in the state where it has only one MLA.

But in their defeat, both the Congress and BJP accused the CPI (M) of polarizing voters on communal grounds.

“It created a constant fear among the minority community and that helped a consolidation in its favour,” said defeated BJP candidate Pillai.

Congress state unit president M M Hassan said, “It used all dirty tricks to win. It is the result of money and muscle power.”

First Published: May 31, 2018 13:56 IST