High stakes for Cong in Kerala as CPM looks towards young faceshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/high-stakes-for-cong-in-kerala-as-cpm-looks-towards-young-faces-6078220/

High stakes for Cong in Kerala as CPM looks towards young faces

The bypolls were necessitated in the constituencies of Vattiyoorkkavu, Konni, Aroor and Ernakulam after incumbent legislators were elected as Lok Sabha MPs.

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The CPI(M) has fielded young faces in all constituencies in a departure from caste considerations. (Express file photo)

Five Assembly segments in Kerala would go to polls on Monday after three weeks of campaigning, mainly marked by ruling CPI(M) facing heat again over the entry of women at Sabarimala and upper caste Hindu Nair outfit Nair Service Society (NSS) openly campaigning for the Congress.

The bypolls were necessitated in the constituencies of Vattiyoorkkavu, Konni, Aroor and Ernakulam after incumbent legislators were elected as Lok Sabha MPs. The death of sitting MLA P B Abdul Razak of Congress ally IUML paved the way for bypoll in Manjeshwar.

It is crucial for the Congress-led UDF to retain four of the five segments. UDF had lost the Pala seat in the bypoll last month for the first time in 54 years. The stakes are also high for the CPI(M) as the results would be seen as a referendum on its three-and-a-half years of power and a victory would be crucial for the party to move ahead after losing 19 of 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala this year. The party has to prove that it has brought back Hindu voters who did not vote for it in the Lok Sabha polls over its stand on Sabarimala. Elections to three-tier local self-governing bodies would also be held after one year.

The CPI(M) has fielded young faces in all constituencies in a departure from caste considerations. At Vattiyoorkkavu, where the Nair community has a decisive electorate, the party has fielded Thiruvananthapuram mayor V K Prasanth, who belongs to the backward Ezhava community but enjoys influence across caste lines, particularly among youths. The Congress has fielded K Mohan Kumar, while BJP has chosen party district president S Suresh.

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Of the five constituencies, BJP was the runner up in Manjeswar and Vattiyoorkavu in the last elections of 2016 — it lost Manjeswar by a margin of less than 100 votes. Meanwhile, the NSS campaigned for Congress after the outfit’s general secretary G Sukumaran Nair criticised the CPI(M) for its stand on Sabarimala and its failure to ensure social justice to the upper caste community. The NSS move irked both the BJP and CPI(M), which even complained to the election commission.

CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Saturday said the Congress is trying to foment communal sentiments. “Congress is not debating political issues, instead looking for creating communal polarisation in at least three constituencies. Instead of dabbling in politics for Congress, NSS should have formed a party and joined the electoral battle,” he said.

Balakrishnan earlier said that a majority of devotees visiting Sabarimala temple are Communists in a bid to extend solidarity to Hindu voters. After Dantewada, Cong eyes another bypoll win in Bastar