Kerala bypoll analysis | UDF's Ernakulam fortress survives rage of rains, low voter turnout

UDF's Ernakulam fortress survives rage of rains, low voter turnout
T J Vinod hugs senior Congress leader V D satheesan and Hibi Eden MP after he won the assembly bypoll.
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Kochi:For a constituency considered a United Democratic Front (UDF) bastion, the Congress' victory in Ernakulam assembly segment in the bypoll is lacklustre.

UDF's T J Vinod won the bypoll by a margin of 3,673 votes – a meagre figure compared to the front's performance in the past two elections.

Vinod got 37,516 votes against LDF-backed independent Manu Roy's 33,843. NDA's C G Rajagopal had to settle for 13,259 votes.

Heavy rain had caused a huge dip in voter turnout and as expected it has affected the performances of all the three fronts. Ernakulam had recorded the lowest ever turnout of 53.32 per cent.

Click here to view detailed election results.

Despite the fall in the polling percentage and fears of a public anger against the UDF-ruled Kochi Corporation over rampant waterlogging in the city affecting Vinod's chances, the Congress had maintained hopes that it would win the seat by a margin close to 10,000 votes. The LDF had targetted Vinod over the maladministration of the Kochi Corporation, especially since he is the deputy mayor.

In 2016 assembly polls, when the polling percentage was 77.53, UDF's Hibi Eden had polled 57,819 votes and won by a margin of 21,949 votes.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Hibi won 4,91,263 votes and his victory margin was 1,69,053 votes.

In the Ernakulam assembly constituency alone, Hibi could secure 61,920 votes. He was ahead of CPM's P Rajeev by 31,178 votes.

Namesake win?

Compared to these figures, Vinod's margin of 3000-odd votes looks wafer thin. Notably, an independent candidate Manu K M, a namesake of LDF candidate Manu Roy polled 2,572 votes.

If those votes were to go to the Left's kitty, Vinod's victory margin would have further come down to just 1,101 votes.

A total of 1,309 voters chose NOTA, the highest number of such votes polled in the five constituencies where bypolls were held on October 21.

Compared to the 2016 assembly polls, there's a fall of 19,928 votes in the UDF's kitty whereas the dip in LDF's share is only 1,729 votes.

CPM candidate M Anil Kumar had won 35,870 votes in 2016.

It is evident that the rain played spoilsport to the UDF's chances as a large number of traditional UDF supporters could not vote.

However, it could also be assumed that some of them chose to side with the LDF this time, unless it is proven that the Left parties could ensure that most of its cadre votes were polled despite the torrential rain and waterlogging.

Only an analysis of booth-wise voting pattern could shed light on what actually caused the sharp dip in UDF votes.

It needs to be seen if the dire straits of the city roads and a perceived public anger against the UDF over the corruption charges against it in the Palarivattom flyover scam played a role in the poll outcome.

Latin Catholic voters

Poll pundits say that the keyword in Ernakulam constituency is Latin Catholic community when it comes to voting. Even the LDF, which could successfully think beyond caste equations in Vattiyoorkavu was careful to field a Latin Catholic in Ernakulam.

Going by the result, it could be assumed that the community has still backed the Congress-led UDF.

BJP on a fall

The BJP, which fielded newcomer Rajagopal, could not make inroads in Ernakulam. He had to settle for only 13,351 votes. The BJP-led NDA had won 14,878 votes in the 2016 assembly polls.

BJP's vote share stood at 17,769 votes in the assembly segment in

the 2019 Lok sabha polls when Alphons Kannanthanam was in the fray.

With Vinod's win, Ernakulam assembly segment has elected Congress MLAs 13 times. The LDF could win the seat only twice - in 1987 and 1998 when M K Sanu and Sebastian Paul were elected as LDF independents.

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