Kerala bypoll analysis | Muslim vote consolidation gives UDF big win in Manjeswaram

Muslim vote consolidation gives Kamarudheen a big win in Manjeswaram
UDF candidate M C Kamarudheen(left) celebrates with Rajmohan Unnithan (right) and party coworkers. IUML's election symbol ladder is seen in the premises. Photo: Jibin Chempola
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Soon after he began his campaign, United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate M C Kamarudheen sounded confident about his victory in the Manjeswaram assembly bypoll.

“I will win comfortably,” he had told Onmanorama on October 2.

The reason for his confidence was UDF's stupendous show in the Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency in May this year. Manjeswaram is one of the seven assembly constituencies in Kasaragod Lok Sabha seat.

Congress leader Rajmohan Unnithan secured 68,217 votes for an unassailable lead of 11,113 votes over BJP's Ravisha Tantri Kuntar in the Manjeswaram assembly segment.

Unnithan had won the Lok Sabha seat by 40,438 votes.

Political analysts, however, had predicted that Kamarudheen would find it difficult to repeat the show, as there was a tough three-way fight involving the UDF, Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

But Kamarudheen proved sceptics wrong on Thursday when he eventually won the seat by 7,923 votes. He polled 65,407 votes (2,810 votes less than what Unnithan got in 2019) to win the seat. NDA's Ravisha Tantri Kuntar of the BJP finished second with 57,484 votes while LDF's M Shankar Rai of the CPM finished third with 38,233 votes.

Muslim vote consolidation gives Kamarudheen a big win in Manjeswaram
IUML supporters celebrate Manjeswaram win.

For detailed results, click here.

Significance of Kamarudheen's victory

Kamarudheen's predecessor PB Abdul Razak - whose death necessitated the bpoll - had scraped through the 2016 assembly election by 89 votes over BJP's K Surendran.

Kamarudheen's victory appears to have regained IUML's stranglehold over the constituency.

IUML candidates have been winning the seat since 1987, except in 2006.

Kamarudheen fought against several odds in this election. His non-familiarity with Kannada and Tulu -- the two major languages in the constituency -- made him a rank outsider compared to his rivals - Shankar Rai and Ravisha Tantri - who could easily connect with the voters thanks to their mastery over the twin languages.

Manjeswaram is known as Sapta Bhasha Sangama Bhoomi, or land of seven languages, where people speak Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Marati, Urdu and Beary.

Urdu and Beary are predominantly used by the Muslims. People who speak languages other than Malayalam are known as linguistic minorities.

"I am a political student and it is not difficult for me to learn Kannada and Tulu. I will stand for the rights of linguistic minorities," he had assured voters.

His promise appears to have struck a chord with the linguistic minorities who form more than 50 per cent of the electorate.

Muslim vote consolidation gives Kamarudheen a big win in Manjeswaram
UDF candidate M C Kamarudheen (right) celebrates with Rajmohan Unnithan (left) and party coworkers. Photo: Jibin Chempola

Consolidation of Muslim votes

Consolidation of Muslim votes appears to have given Kamarudheen a comfortable victory.

All sections of Muslims, including two dominant factions of Sunnis, appear to have voted for Kamarudheen to avoid a 2016-like scenario.

Majority of Mulsims in Manjeswaram are Sunnis, and they belong to either AP or EK faction.

The Sunnis had split in 1989 following differences between its two main leaders, the late EK Aboobacker Musliyar and AP Aboobacker Musliyar. The splinter groups came to be known as EK and AP factions.

Both factions favoured Kamarudheen this time. In 2016, the AP Sunni faction had ditched Abdul Razak.

The split in Muslim votes had helped BJP's K Surendran to finish a close second then.

BJP 's consistent show

The BJP finished runner-up once again in Manjeswaram.

The party had finished second in seven consecutive elections since 1987.

The bypoll, however, proved BJP's solid vote base in the constituency. The party gained 1,003 votes more than it polled in 2016 assembly poll, and 380 votes more than it got in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Ravisha Tantri said UDF got more than 5,000 LDF votes. "I think we did not get more than 1,000 votes because of communal polarisation," he said on Thursday.

Ravisha Tantri said he will not end his political life with this defeat. "We will start campaign for the upcoming local self government election. If the party asks me, I will contest in Manjeswaram assembly election in 2021," he said.

Muslim vote consolidation gives Kamarudheen a big win in Manjeswaram
NDA's Ravisha Tantri Kuntar of the BJP, UDF's Kamarudheen and LDF's M Shankar Rai. Photo: Jibin Chempola

Sabarimala non-issue?

Though Ravisha Tantri had said that Sabarimala was a crucial issue in Manjeswaram, voters appears to have rejected his claim.

Ravisha Tantri, who was a former state vice-president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had told Onmanorama on October 2 that the Pinarayi government's hurry to take women to Sabarimala had pained many devotees in the constituency and it was a huge election issue.

"Even minority voters would support us as they fear that the communist government would impose certain restrictions on them," he had said.

“The BJP candidate must have won the seat had Sabarimala been an issue here,” said a CPM leader on condition of anonymity.

CPM's dilemma

CPM hoped to win Hindu, Mulsim and religious minority votes by fielding Shankar Rai.

Announcing his candidature, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan The party said Shankar Rai was a representative of linguistic minorities.

CPM believed that his connect with the voters would work wonders. Unlike the UDF and BJP candidates, Shankar Rai is a resident of Manjeswaram. He is president of Delampady Temple Seva Samithi. He is a Yakshagana and drama artiste and enjoyed good rapport with the people.

Despite all these factors, CPM could not improve on its third-place finish.

Shankar Rai got 4,332 votes less than what his party got in 2016. But the party could take solace in the fact that it got 5,437 votes more than it polled in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

"Our calculations have gone awry. I expected a second-place finish," Shankar Rai said on Thursday.

However, he denied that there was an erosion in CPM votes. "We will analyse the results and rectify mistakes," he said.

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