Will controversies over 'Poothana' and Punnapra-Vayalar help Congress win Aroor?

Will controversies over 'Poothana' and Punnapra-Vayalar help Congress win Aroor?
Manu C Pulickal, Shanimol Usman and Prakash Babu.
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Aroor: Electioneering in Aroor assembly constituency assumed an 'epic' proportion recently when CPM leader and Public Works Department Minister G Sudhakaran allegedly referred UDF candidate Shanimol Usman as Poothana, a demonic character in Hindu mythology.

His reported remark that 'Aroor is not a constituency for some Poothanas to win' had angered the UDF so much that it was quick to file a defamation suit with the election commission. However, Sudhakaran got a reprieve when the district collector reported to the commission that 'the remark was not aimed at any person.'

The CPM-led LDF, which fielded Manu C Pulickal, would like to believe that the controversy has been done and dusted and it would have no impact on the election outcome. The Congress-led UDF, on the other hand, has been keeping the issue alive with Shanimol repeatedly saying that voters in Aroor would judge the senior CPM leader's choice of words.

The Congress has also been trying to capitalise on Punnapra-Vayalar peasant uprising - an emotional issue for the Communist party sympathisers – and checkmate Pulickal. Congress' state chief Mullappally Ramachandran triggered a controversy when he alleged that Pulickal's family served a feast to the army personnel who had shot down the peasants at Vayalar in 1946. He was trying to make a point to his political rivals than his own party colleagues. That the heir of a family who served a feast to the army that killed the first generation Communists in Kerala should be treated as class enemy.

Sensing danger, the CPM quickly refuted Mullappally's claim and even filed a defamation complaint.

Aroor Election News 2019
Public Works Department Minister G Sudhakaran

“Mullappally shouldn't have stooped to such a low. He is attacking me and my family as the Congress cannot raise allegations against my party or the government,” Manu said.

It all started with a Facebook post

Mullappally apparently raised the allegation taking a cue from Congress leader and former MLA D Sugathan's recent Facebook post.

“The soldiers who took part in the Vayalar shooting were served a feast at Pulickal family in Vayalar. All the victims of the shooting were Ezhavas - 103 people. The heir of Pulickal family is now the LDF candidate in Aroor. It's not possible to change history,” read Sugathan's post.

Public Works Department Minister G Sudhakaran
Congress' Kerala chief Mullappally Ramachandran

Sugathan told Onmanorama that he had no political intention when he wrote the post. “It wasn't noticed much initially. Later, it went viral after CPM supporters started commenting on it. Many of them argued that it was CPM's success if it could bring a person from such a family into the party fold.”

'Poetic proof'

Asked whether he has any historical evidence to corroborate his claim, he cited a poem by Vayalar Ramavarma. According to him, Vayalar, in his poem titled Samskarathinte Nalangal (the flames of civilization), had mentioned a family of landlords offering a treat to the soldiers after the Vayalar shooting. “Pulickal family was the only such family in Vayalar, an isle in the lake, at that time,” Sugathan said.

Sugathan said Manu's grandfather Abraham was the patriarch of the Pulickal family during the Vayalar agitation. “Manu's father left the Congress to join the CPM,” he said.

Manu has challenged the Congress to come up with historic evidence to substantiate the charges. “Plenty of books have been written about the uprising. Name of the Pulickal family has not been mentioned in any of them,” he said.

Sugathan, meanwhile, is giving final touches to his book titled Punnapra-Vayalar – Apriyasathyangal (Punnapra-Vayalar – Bitter truths). “I have mentioned the episode in the book and named the family,” he said. “All the books on the uprising have been written by Left-leaning historians,” he said.

Aroor Election News 2019
AM Ariff

A Congress leader said the allegation may cause some confusion among the young CPM supporters.

The CPM is trying to retain the seat, left vacant after the election of A M Ariff to the Lok Sabha in May this year, banking on Manu's credentials as a young and energetic leader who is active in palliative care. The party also claims that only its MLA can take forward the development projects initiated by Ariff.

The Congress, while terming CPM's development claims hollow, is trying to cash in on some emotional issues. “Sudhakaran's Poothana remark will definitely have an impact on the poll outcome. It has not gone down well with many women in the constituency,” a Congress leader said.

Congress leaders also feel that Shanimol will get sympathy votes because she was the only Congress candidate who lost the Lok Sabha election in May this year. She had lost the Alappuzha constituency to Ariff by 10,474 votes. Interestingly, she led in the Aroor constituency by 649 votes.

BJP mixes development and religion

BJP has fielded Yuva Morcha leader Prakash Babu as the NDA candidate after its ally BDJS opted not to contest this time.

Aroor Election News
NDA candidate Prakash Babu

Prakash Babu, who was jailed after the protests against allowing women of child-bearing age into the Sabarimala temple, calls himself a victim of the Sabarimala row. “We will stop any young woman if she tries to enter the temple even now,” he said. He also attacked the UDF and LDF for fielding candidates from minority communities in Aroor, a Hindu majority constituency.

“Aroor is the only assembly constituency in Kerala where there is no government-run college. This very fact shows the apathy of the LDF and UDF MLAs who represented the constituency in the past,” he said, projecting NDA as the only front that speaks of development in the segment.

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