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Kerala: Implosion within LDF over KM Mani’s support ahead of Chengannur bypoll

The two Left parties have their daggers drawn over the question of support of KM Mani, the leader of Kerala Congress (M) which wields substantial influence over Christian voters in central Kerala, where Chengannur falls.

Kochi |
April 27, 2018 9:29:31 pm
The differences between Kerala’s ruling partners – the CPI and the CPI(M) – are sharpening ahead of the all-important bye-election in Chengannur. The two Left parties have their daggers drawn over the question of support of KM Mani, the leader of Kerala Congress (M) which wields substantial influence over Christian voters in central Kerala, where Chengannur falls. While the CPI is vociferously opposed to taking the support of KC(M), the CPI(M) has maintained that it is willing to take the support of anyone opposed to the Congress-led UDF and the BJP-led NDA.
The CPI(M) has left nothing to chance by nominating its Alappuzha district secretary Saji Cherian as its candidate in Chengannur for the May 28 bypoll. The Congress has fielded local leader D Vijayakumar while the BJP has put forward its former state president PS Sreedharan Pillai. The seat fell vacant after the incumbent CPM MLA KK Ramachandran Nair passed away earlier this year.
Political watchers believe the bypoll will be a close contest with all three coalitions having a good chance to wrest the seat. While Chengannur has traditionally been a Congress bastion with a substantial number of Hindu Nair and Christian voters, the CPM managed to win the seat in the 2016 Assembly elections. The party presumes that if it has to produce a similar result, it has to make inroads into the Christian community. That’s where the KC(M) factor comes into play.
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran, who has been a staunch critic of KM Mani, told reporters on Thursday that in 2016, KK Ramachandran Nair had won in Chengannur without the support of the KC(M). He added that Cherian can win the bypoll without KC(M)’s support as well, slyly indicating that the LDF does not need the support of KM Mani.
Today, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the CPM state secretary, rebuffed Rajendran’s statement making it clear that the CPM candidate will accept the support of anyone opposed to the UDF and the BJP. He reiterated that such decisions must be made collectively by the LDF, and not unilaterally by any party.
KM Mani, the former finance minister in the UDF regime, has not indicated his support to any party, but of late, he has been cosying up to CPM leaders indicating his eagerness to join the LDF. That his party can individually swing votes in a dozen constituencies in central Kerala, where the CPM has traditionally been weak, is appealing to the LDF. Mani left the UDF shortly after the coalition was routed by the LDF in the 2016 elections. His party currently has 6 MLAs in the Assembly.
The result in Chengannur also has big stakes for the BJP, which had come a close third in 2016, winning more than 40,000 votes – six times the votes it got in 2011. The massive jump in the BJP vote-share is believed to have split the Congress vote, thereby handing the CPM the victory.
The votes will be counted in Chengannur on May 31.

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