Mani C Kappan’s victory in Pala bypoll is a reprieve for the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government after an electoral drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls.After 54 years, the late Kerala Congress supremo K M Mani’s home turf has been wrested by another Mani from the LDF.
This is how the Pala electorate, so far considered a United Democratic Front (UDF) bastion, dumped K M Mani’s legacy in one stroke.
Mani C Kappan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a known figure in Pala. He contested three elections against K M Mani and reduced the victory margin to 4,703 votes in the 2016 Assembly election.
Kappan needed just a little over 2,000 votes to change the political equation and going by the results he managed to do much more than that. Kappan won by 2,943 votes.
In 2016, LDF got 54,181 votes and on Friday Kappan’s share stood at 54,137, which is actually 44 votes lesser.
The UDF polled 7,690 votes lesser than its 2016 share. Undoubtedly, the UDF suffered the biggest setback in an election without K M Mani or his party symbol ‘Two Leaves.’
The BJP vote share also declined by 6,777 votes in Pala. However, it would be wrong to assume that all those votes went to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The catch here is that the overall voter turnout was much less than in 2016 or 2011 elections. That is why there is a decrease in the vote share of all parties.
With a polling percentage of 71.43 per cent in 2019, the was a drop of 11,836 voters compared to 2016.
The LDF's victory was in consolidating and maintaining the votes it secured over the past 15 years.
Friday’s results proved that several KC(M) bastions in Pala crumbled mainly due to the lack of ground work.
The UDF got lesser votes even in Pala municipality, considered to be a bastion of KC(M).
From 6,426 votes in 2016, the UDF share slumped to 5,234. The LDF, which got 5,592 votes in 2016, increased its votes to 5,947.
Apart from Thalanadu and Thappalam panchayats, which the LDF had won in 2016 too, it gained vote share in Ramapuram, Kadanadu, Melukavu, Moonnilavu, Bharananganam and Karoor panchayats.
Karoor gave the biggest blow for UDF, as its vote share in the panchayat came down from 6,383 in 2016 to a 2,270.
The LDF increased got 268 more votes in Karoor than in 2016.
KC(M) retained its lead in Mutholy, Meenachil, Kozhuvanal and Elikullam panchayats.
However, only in Meenachil did it get more votes than its 2016 share. UDF candidate Jose Tom is a former panchayat member of Meenachil.
It is evident that KC( M) was overconfident. It was relying heavily on the sympathy wave following K M Mani’s demise.
It was also hoping to ride on the UDF wave which reflected in Thomas Chazhikadan's win in Kottayam constituency in the Lok Sabha polls.
The UDF hoped that the electorate would rally around K M Mani’s family.
Chazhikadan had won by a margin of over a lakh votes against CPM candidate V N Vasavan in an election held just 13 days after K M Mani’s death.
Even though Jose Tom’s candidature was finalised by a committee headed by Chazhikadan himself, the sympathy factor did not work out.
The bitter infighting between Jose K Mani and P J Joseph factions also added to its woes.
The LDF also did not have to dilly-dally on its candidate and this gave Kappan a head start. He made the most of it.
The CPM machinery also ensured that Kappan's campaign reached every nook and corner of Pala constituency.