Q: What’s the bye-election in Vengara all about?
A: Vengara is a bottle-shaped Assembly constituency in Malappuram district of Kerala. It is a part of the Malabar region of the state. A bye-election was necessitated after sitting MLA PK Kunhalikutty of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) vacated the seat to contest a bypoll in Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency which he went on to win by over 1.7 lakh votes. E Ahamed, MP from Malappuram, died following a cardiac arrest during the joint address of the President to both Houses of Parliament earlier this year.
Q. When is the bye-election and when will the results be announced?
A: The bye-election is scheduled on October 11 and the votes will be counted on October 15.
Q. Who are the candidates in this election?
A: The IUML, an ally of the Congress in Kerala, is looking to retain the seat and has fielded KNA Khader, who earlier represented Vallikkunnu constituency in the Assembly between 2011 and 2016. The CPM has pitched PP Basheer as its candidate and the BJP K Janachandran Master. The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which wields some influence in Malappuram and does not associate itself with the CPM or the Congress, announced KC Naseer as its candidate. There are two Independents in the fray.
Q. Can this election change political equations in the state?
A: Not at all. The ruling CPM has a comfortable majority in the state assembly and faces no danger from the Opposition.
Q. What makes this election interesting?
A: Within a decade after the constituency was formed following delimitation, Vengara has already seen two Lok Sabha and two Assembly elections.
Vengara is considered a stronghold of the IUML and has a Muslim-majority population of over 48,000 people. The fight is primarily between the IUML and the CPM candidates with the BJP or SDPI hoping to end up in the third spot.
In 2016, Kunhalikutty, one of the senior leaders of the IUML and a former Kerala Industries minister in the Congress-led government, won the seat with an impressive majority of over 38,000 votes against Basheer, the same CPM candidate now in the fray. Basheer, who got nearly 35,000 votes, was credited for not giving Kunhalikutty a walkover. The BJP candidate got 7,000 votes ending up in the third spot.
The contest in Vengara is fierce with all three parties campaigning on the issues of development and governance. However, political observers say the only thing that matters on October 15 is the winning margin of the IUML candidate Khader. If Khader’s winning margin is less than that of his predecessor Kunhalikutty, it would be seen as a setback for the IUML and its leadership. For the larger Congress-led UDF, a victory in Vengara will be morale-boosting on the national stage.
CPM secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has maintained that the result in Vengara will not be a reflection of the state government’s performance.
As for the BJP, the party will hope that the ongoing ‘Jan Raksha Yatra’, which will pass through Malappuram, will give it a surge in vote-share in the constituency