Chengannur assembly bypoll in Kerala triggers fierce triangular contest
The May 28 bypoll for Chengannur assembly seat in Kerala is gaining much significance as the three major players — CPI(M), Congress and BJP — have fielded strong candidates, and are campaigning vigorously.
The ruling CPI(M) has put up its Alappuzha district secretary Saji Cherian against BJP’s former state president PS Sreedharan Pillai and Congress veteran SD Vijayakumar.
In fact, all the three parties had announced their candidates even before the dates were out and started a vigorous campaign. Perhaps, in the state’s recent history, no other bypoll has witnessed such heat and dust.
For the CPI(M), it is a referendum on the two-year Pinarayi Vijayan government. The opposition Congress is desperate to retain its stronghold that slipped out of its bag in the last assembly election. For the BJP, it is an opportunity to prove its presence before the general election next year.
After the Karnataka assembly polls, both Congress and BJP are planning to rope in their national leaders. Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar of BJP and former defence minister AK Antony of Congress had visited the constituency recently. Others are expected to hit the campaign trail in coming days.
The by-election was necessitated due to the death of CPI(M) MLA KK Ramachandran Nair.
“Our late legislator had introduced many developmental schemes in the constituency. No doubt, people will give an opportunity for the party to complete these projects,” said CPI(M)’s Saji Cherian.
Though the CPI(M) is mainly banking on the performance of the government, the Congress and BJP slam it citing the recent custodial death of a youth and recurring political violence in north Kerala.
“Last time, we lost by a narrow margin. But this time, it will not happen,” said Congress’ Vijayakumar.
Development is the key poll plank. Chengannur is the main transit point for millions of Ayyappa devotees who throng the hill temple during the three-month annual pilgrimage season starting in November.
The CPI(M) is a bit worried that the BJP had introduced many centrally-sponsored schemes in the constituency. A passport seva kendra was opened at the constituency and all the three parties claimed credit for this.
In the last assembly election, the BJP secured around 42,000 votes. However, its strained relation with the BDJS (Bharat Dharma Jana Sena of backward Ezhavas) is a cause for concern.
Upset at not getting its dues, BDJS has decided to keep away from the bypoll. The outfit has often complained that the BJP had not fulfilled any of the promises it made at the time of tie-up ahead of the assembly poll in 2016.
“Talks are on to resolve differences. BDJS will support us wholeheartedly,” said BJP’s Sreedharan Pillai.
Who will Kerala Congress (Mani) go with?
Significantly, all the three groups are keeping their fingers crossed as Kerala Congress (Mani) who left the Congress-led UDF camp after the assembly election is yet to announce its position.
Though former chief minister Oommen Chandy had tried his best to bring him back, the veteran Mani is yet to budge. While the CPI(M) would like to get the predominantly Christian outfit on its side, the CPI is strongly opposed to Mani’s entry in the LDF.