The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala, retained Vengara Assembly constituency on Sunday by defeating the CPI(M) with a reduced margin in the by-election held last week. The by-election was held in the middle of the BJP’s much-publicised Jan Raksha Yatra, which was flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah. But the BJP candidate, Janachandran, was pushed to the fourth position and polled fewer votes than the party had bagged in last year’s Assembly elections.
In the results declared today, IUML’s K N A Khader polled 65,227 votes and defeated CPI(M)’s P P Basheer by 23,310 votes. In the 2016 Assembly elections, the then party candidate, P K Kunhalikutty, had polled 72,181 votes and won with a margin of 38,057 votes.
The fall in vote-share and Khader’s victory margin in the IUML stronghold in Malappuram district will come as a shock for UDF at a time the CPI(M) is projecting itself as the best alternative to resist the BJP in the state. The by-election was necessitated after sitting IUML legislator P K Kunhalikutty got elected to the Lok Sabha in a by-election held in April this year.
The BJP’s Janachandran bagged 5,728 votes, against 7,055 the party candidate had polled in 2016. The right-wing Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), finished third by more than doubling its vote-share. SDPI candidate K C Nazer polled 8,648 votes, up from 3,049 votes the party had got in 2016.
The reduced vote-share of IUML is seen as indication of the Muslim community’s growing acceptance of the CPI(M), which has recently upped the war of words with the BJP as the saffron party’s leaders and ministers visit the state to protest against what they call “red terror”. The Left party is seen as having eclipsed the Congress in the battle against the BJP in Kerala.
Post-results, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said, “The election result shows that the Left can gain ground in Malappuram district. The poll outcome would accelerate the organisational and political decline of the UDF. It also indicates that the BJP’s fascist campaign will not have any impact in Kerala.’’
The Congress’s Ramesh Chennithala, Opposition leader in Assembly, alleged that government machinery was misused in the by-election but the UDF still won the seat with a comfortable margin. “The voting pattern shows the nexus between CPI(M) and BJP. A chunk of BJP votes has gone to CPI(M),” he said.
Regarding the reduction in IUML’s victory margin, Chennithala said Kunhalikutty had bagged a huge margin of 38,000 votes in 2016 because of his personal charisma.