Updated: May 5, 2022 7:52:54 am
A year since the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government returned to power in Kerala, it faces a crucial by-poll in Thrikkakara in Ernakulam district on May 31 that is being seen as a referendum on its flagship SilverLine semi high-speed railway project.
The proposed railway line, which aims to reduce travel time between the state’s northern and southern ends, cuts through Thrikkakara and after the poll schedule was announced both the LDF and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) said it would be the main political agenda of the by-election. The Congress currently holds the seat and the by-poll was necessitated by the death of its legislator PT Thomas last December. Among the parties also likely to be in the fray is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
“People are for the rail corridor project. We will speak about development politics,” said LDF convener EP Jayarajan after the by-poll was announced. Emphasising what is at stake for his party, Opposition leader VD Satheesan said, “If the UDF fails to get a thumping victory in Thrikkakara, it will be construed as people’s mandate for implementing the rail project.”
For Jayarajan, Satheesan, and state Congress president K Sudhakaran, the by-poll is crucial since this will be their first since assuming charge of their posts. If the Congress fails to retain the constituency that it has held since 2011, both Sudhakaran and Satheesan are likely to face questions from within the party.
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Thrikkakara is a constituency that also comprises parts of the Kochi corporation and has a sizable urban population. In the 2021 Assembly elections, Twenty20, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) wing of garment major Kitex Group, got 13,800 votes. At present, the group controls four village panchayats in Ernakulam but they are not in the Thrikkakara Assembly segment.
To tap into the urban vote base, Twenty20 has decided to join hands with the AAP even though the Arvind Kejriwal-led party has yet to prove its presence even in local body elections in the state. “We are planning to field a common acceptable candidate in the by-election. People are fed up with both the LDF and the UDF. In the last Assembly elections, we got 13,800 votes despite not having any organisational history in the constituency,” said Kitex Group Managing Director (MD) Sabu M Jacob.
Another factor in the by-election is likely to be senior Congress leader KV Thomas who has distanced himself from the party after being removed as a member of the party’s state political affairs committee for attending a CPI(M) seminar last month. On Tuesday, Thomas made it clear that he would not back his party in the election. “I am for development, the K-Rail project is essential. We cannot blindly oppose a project like this,” he added.
While the Congress has fielded PT Thomas’ wife Uma, both the CPI(M) and the BJP, which received about 15,000 votes last year, have yet to announce their candidates. The LDF has 99 MLAs in the 140-member Assembly while the rest are UDF legislators.
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