Will Aroor side with Congress' Shanimol Usman once again?

Will Aroor side with Congress' Shanimol Usman once again?
Manu C Pulikkal, Shanimol Usman and Prakash Babu
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Kochi: Number crunching is the game in Aroor these days. The ruling LDF and the opposition UDF have some numbers to flaunt in the assembly constituency, one of the five which will go for byelections on October 21.

The UDF has fielded prominent woman leader Shanimol Usman, the only UDF candidate who lost the Lok Sabha polls in Kerala. Even though she lost the Alappuzha Parliament constituency, she could maintain a lead of 648 votes in the Aroor assembly segment. This prompted the Congress to field her once again despite hectic lobbying for the seat by a few other leaders. The UDF's analysis is that Shanimol is someone who could impress the voters of Aroor and a perceived sympathy towards her for being the only UDF candidate who lost the Lok Sabha race could work in her favour this time.

The LDF counters this calculation with another poll data. In 2014 also the UDF candidate had won a lead of over 1,000 votes in the Aroor assembly segment, but that did not affect the performance of LDF candidate A M Ariff in the 2016 assembly polls.

The Aroor bypoll has been necessitated following the election of Ariff to the Lok Sabha. Aroor is the only sitting seat of the LDF among the five going for bypolls.

The LDF has fielded DYFI leader Manu C Pulickal as its candidate. This is his first assembly poll.

LDF is pinning its hopes mainly on the CPM's strength in the constituency. It stood with the Left front for three consecutive elections since 2006 when a young Ariff stopped the winning streak of K R Gowri. Ariff was elected to the assembly from Aroor in 2011 and 2016 as well. The Left front claims that Ariff could ensure the development of each nook and cranny of the constituency during the 13 years he served as an MLA.

The UDF calls this claims hollow. They highlight the infrastructure development during the previous UDF regime and describes Ariff a non-performer. UDF calculates that a perceived anti-incumbency wave will work in its favour.

“Aroor witnessed development when leaders like A K Antony, Vayalar Ravi and K R Gowri represented the region in assembly. The development came to a halt during Ariff's term. He was elected in 2011 and 2016 as people hoped that he would become a minister if LDF came to power,” Alappuzha district Congress chief A A Shukoor told Onmanorama.

Shukoor also listed the bridges completed during the UDF tenure.

Caste arithmetic

Like elsewhere in Kerala, Aroor is also not immune to caste and community arithmetic when it comes to electoral politics. The constituency has a significant number of Hindu ezhava votes and SNDP Yogam chief Vellappally Nateshan has signalled that he would support the Left front. This despite the BDJS, the party headed by his son Thushar Vellappally, being a part of the BJP-led NDA. This time all is not well within the saffron fold with the BDJS opting out of contesting the bypoll. Instead, the BJP has fielded young leader Prakash Babu, who had contested the Lok Sabha polls from Kozhikode.

The Congress is hoping that a major portion of the BDJS voters who would refuse to vote for the BJP would side with the UDF rather than the LDF.

NDA candidate K S Radhakrishnan had polled 25,250 votes in Aroor segment in the Lok Sabha elections. It remains to be seen if the front could repeat the performance with an annoyed BDJS in the fold.

The UDF also hopes that the row over the Sabarimala temple is still an issue in Aroor as elsewhere in central Kerala. It would be rekindling the sentiments of the Hindus who felt hurt with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's tough stance to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple.

The CPM would like to believe that the issue has been subsided especially since it did not play up much in the Pala bypoll. With already an upset win in Pala, if the LDF could retain Aroor, the LDF would be on a strong wicket even if it loses the bypolls in Vattiyoorkavu, Konni, Ernakulam and Manjeswaram. It is perceived that the UDF has an upper-hand in these segments.

Having lost Pala, a UDF stronghold, winning back Aroor is a prestige battle for the Congress-led front.

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