Chengannur Bye-Election Results 2018: In a bye-election seen as a referendum on the policies of the incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, the CPM scored a massive morale-boosting victory in Chengannur with its candidate Saji Cherian defeating Congress’s D Vijayakumar by 20,956 votes. BJP candidate and former state president PS Sreedharan Pillai came third with 35,270 votes. The bye-election had been necessitated by the death of sitting CPM MLA KK Ramachandran Nair in January.
“Our victory is a reflection of the pro-people policies of our government. To counter the extreme Hindutva agenda of the RSS, the Congress used a soft-Hindutva approach which led to its defeat. Our opposition to the RSS at the same time was firmly rooted in secularism,” Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPM state secretary, told reporters.
The Left’s victory margin in the constituency is the highest any party has achieved in the past and possibly even beyond the party’s expectations. In 2016, its candidate, KK Ramachandran Nair had won over Congress’s PC Vishnunath by nearly 8000 votes which have now more than doubled to over 20,000 votes. Right from the first round of counting, CPM’s Cherian was able to maintain a substantial lead which extended in all the ten panchayats, even in those like Mannar and Pandanad panchayats where the Congress wielded strong influence.
While both the CPM and the Congress got more votes than last time, it was the BJP which lost over 7000 votes in the constituency where it fancied its chances to replace the Congress as the Opposition. In the Thiruvanvandoor panchayat, where the BJP had strong chances, it trailed the CPM by 618 votes. The erosion in the BJP’s votes is considered a direct fallout of its testy ties with the Bharat Dharma Jana Sangh (BDJS), which presides over a large section of the backward Ezhava community.
“There is no NDA in Kerala. The BJP behaves as if it is the only party in the state. This election must make the party deeply introspect its actions. If it wants to survive, it has to respect its allies. Sreedharan Pillai was a good candidate, but he has been made a sacrificial lamb in the party’s endeavour to win the election single-handedly,” Vellapally Natesan, general secretary of the SNDP, told a television news channel. The BDJS is the political arm of the SNDP.
As for KM Mani, the leader of Kerala Congress (M) which recently returned into the UDF fold, the election will be seen as a setback. In the sole panchayat KC(M) rules in Chengannur, the UDF trailed in third position behind the CPM and the BJP.
“It’s clear that there were some undercurrents, we will have to examine,” he said.
The CPM’s win in Chengannur is seen to have resulted due to the consolidation it was able to make among nearly 20000 new voters in the constituency. Cherian, also the district secretary of the party, was able to rope in a large section of the Christian community voters and his popular palliative care initiatives among the old voters are seen to have made a difference.
The bye-election in Chengannur was conducted on May 28 with a 76.2 per cent voter turnout.