Analysis | Will Palakkad, Chelakkara bypolls add to CPM's misery

Pinarayi Vijayan. Photo: Manorama Online.

In six months, Kerala will witness two assembly by-elections and at least one of them will be unusual in the sense that it would be a real three-cornered fight. Bypolls have been necessitated in Palakkad and Chelakkara assembly segments following the Lok Sabha poll victory of Shafi Parambil and K Radhakrishnan, who are sitting MLAs from these constituencies respectively. If Congress leader Rahul Gandhi decides to quit Wayanad LS seat and retain Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh, the state will witness a Lok Sabha bypoll too.

Shafi, a firebrand Congress leader, was elected from the Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency, while CPM veteran Radhakrishnan won from the Alathur seat. Radhakrishnan’s win was the only face-saver for the CPM and its allies, which lost the rest of the 19 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.The ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) would want nothing short of a win in the bypolls. A bypoll victory may help partially repair the damage caused by the LS election disgrace for the LDF. It is politically crucial for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) to at least retain the Palakkad assembly seat. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will be fighting the bypolls with a renewed vigour following its historic win by actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi in Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP will go all out to win Palakkad assembly seat, where it finished a close second in the 2021 assembly polls and in this LS polls also.

BJP wants to conquer Palakkad fort
Like Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur, Palakkad has been a hotspot for years in BJP’s map of hope in Kerala. BJP is ruling the Palakkad municipality. The constituency witnessed a thriller contest in 2021 as BJP fielded Metroman E Sreedharan against Shafi who fought his third assembly polls. Sreedharan gave jitters to the UDF camp throughout the vote counting, though the Congress candidate emerged winner by a margin of 3,859 votes. This was a huge drop from his victory margin of 17483 in 2016.

E Sreedharan
E Sreedharan.

In this Lok Sabha polls, Congress’s V K Sreekandan polled 9,707 more votes than BJP’s C Krishnakumar in Palakkad assembly segment. In 2021 and 2024, the CPM ended up third in this assembly segment. In 2021, Congress’s vote share was 38.06 per cent and BJP polled 35.34 per cent. C P Pramod of CPM had to settle with 25.64 per cent. This LS polls, Congress polled 39.70 per cent in Palakkad assembly segment while BJP’s share dipped to 32.40 per cent. CPM witnessed a slight increase in its vote share with 26.05 per cent.

In assembly polls, the BJP has been consistently increasing its vote share in Palakkad and CPM suffered a fall. In 2016, Sobha Surendran came second with 29.08 per cent votes, pushing CPM’s N N Krishnadas to the third slot (28.07 per cent).

The numbers should give Congress some confidence in the bypolls and the political climate at present doesn't offer any hope for the CPM. The BJP, on the other hand, is expected to put up a spirited fight to breach the UDF fort with the confidence it gained from the LS poll results. The party has not only won a Lok Sabha seat in Thrissur but also came first in 11 assembly segments in Kerala. The BJP, with a third term at the Centre and an MP from Thrissur, which is a neighbouring constituency, is sure to deploy its full might in Palakkad.

It’s too early to predict the name of probable candidates but speculations have already started. The names rumoured to be considered by the Congress include former MLA V T Balram and Youth Congress state president Rahul Mamkoottathil, a close aide of Shafi.

Will Chelakkara stay with CPM?
Chelakkara assembly seat, which is part of Alathur LS constituency, elected a Congress MLA last time in 1991 when M P Thami won. Since 1996, the constituency, reserved for Scheduled Castes, has sided with the CPM. In the six elections since 1996, K Radhakrishnan won five times while U R Pradeep secured the seat for the CPM in 2016.

In 2021, Radhakrishnan registered a thumping win with 54.41 per cent votes while Congress’s C C Sreekumar could bag just 28.81 per cent. BJP’s Shajumon Vattekka came third with 15.68 per cent. In this Lok Sabha polls, Radhakrishnan won from Alathur but his vote share in Chelakkara came down to 41.20 per cent while Congress’s Ramya Haridas, who sought re-election to LS, polled 37.67 per cent of votes. T N Sarasu increased the BJP’s vote share to 19.77 per cent from 15.68 per cent in 2021. It is the highest the BJP has ever recorded in Chelakkara.

In Radhakrishnan’s absence, the CPM may once again field U R Pradeep while chances are high for the Congress to give another chance for Ramya. In 2019, Shanimol Usman, who had lost from the Alappuzha LS seat, was fielded in the Aroor assembly bypoll and emerged winner.

In Chelakkara too, the BJP will be desperate to up its game even though its chances are bleak as compared to Palakkad.

K Radhakrishnan MP (left) with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File photo: Manorama
The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.