Bengaluru: Congress, the Opposition party in Kerala, along with ally Indian Union Muslim League won three out of five bypolls in the state, according to the Election Commission's on Thursday, with the rest two going to the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, is set to draw a blank, as it did in the previous Lok Sabha polls in May despite breathing fire into the Sabarimala protests that attracted national attention.
Despite a one-seat upper-hand, the bypolls are debilitating for Congress and a major confidence booster for the ruling CPM. Kerala is seen as one of the last turfs for both parties which are facing a vanishing electoral footprint across India, making the road to 2021 important.
The two seats CPM is set to make a huge win in — Vattiyoorkavu and Konni— were highly politically sensitive ones over the Sabarimala agitations, which made a windfall for the Congress during Lok Sabha polls. These seats have traditionally been with the Congress for more than two decades.
In Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram district, CPM's young face VK Prasanth, who is also the local corporation Mayor and won laurels for his work in recent flood-relief works, won with 14,465 votes. Prasanth's huge margin is momentous for the CPM, given that the party was in third place behind Congress and BJP in the previous assembly election from the seat in 2016 and the bypoll campaign was met with daunting obstacles.
The results in Vattiyoorkavu, where all three major parties are significantly strong, were supposed to be a test of anger against the CPM government. The communist candidate also faced the ire of the upper-caste organisation Nair Service Society (NSS), which openly supported Congress over Sabarimala agitations.
The BJP, initially predicted to have a fighting chance in the seat, has lost more than half of its 2016 poll’s votes and has gone to the third spot in the seat, a clear mark to the party not being able to arrest its decline in Kerala.
In Konni, situated in Pathanamthitta district where Sabarimala is located, CPM’s Janeesh Kumar is won with 9,940 votes. Despite a high-voltage campaign, the BJP firebrand leader K Surendran finished in third place in the seat.
The Congress candidate Shanimol Usman won with a slight majority of 2,079 votes in Aroor, the only sitting seat of CPM in the bypolls. The communists dominated the seat for almost 50 years. In Ernakulam, a sitting seat dominated by Congress with at least 10,000 votes margin for more than 20 years, the Congress candidate TJ Vinod Kumar won with a margin of only 3,750 votes. In Manjeshwaram, where the BJP lost by a mere 89 votes in 2016 polls, Congress ally Muslim League candidate MC Kamarudheen won by 7,293 votes.