Malappuram: As Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency witnesses yet another poll battle, the Kunhalikutty factor is again coming into play in Malabar region in Northern Kerala.
IUML’s Kunhalikutty won the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency in May 2019 by a margin of 2.6 lakh votes in this traditional Muslim League bastion.
Kunhalikutty has now changed his political turf to Kerala and the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) seeks to cash in on the discontent among voters upon whom another by-election has been thrust.
It was after the death of sitting MP of the constituency and veteran leader of the party E Ahamed in 2017, that P K Kunhalikutty resigned from his Vengara assembly segment and contested the LS bypoll in Malappuram constituency. He again won an impressive victory in LS election in 2019 in the constituency.
Detractors charge he failed to make his mark in Parliament, which a section in his party also secretly agree.
Kunhalikutty has now quit to take an active role in Kerala politics in the run-up to the assembly polls in the state on April 6.
In 2019, Kunhalikutty defeated LDF’s V P Sanu, who is the national president of Students Federation of India (SFI), by a whopping margin of 2,60,153 votes. Kunhalikutty garnered 5,89,873 votes ( 57.08%) leaving the rest way behind.
That was a remarkable improvement from the 2017 bypoll after after the demise of E Ahamed -- Kunhalikutty’s victory margin was 1,71,023 votes. When Kunhalikutty won 5,15,330 votes (55.04%) in 2017 bypoll, opposing LDF’s M B Faisal secured only 3,44, 307 votes (36.77%).
CPM’s district secretary E M Mohandas says even the UDF voters of the constituency are unhappy over Kunhalikutty’s decision to return to Kerala politics.
The CPM line of thought is that a major chunk of traditional UDF voters will support the Left this time.
“We are yet to take a final decision on the candidate”, he said. But Mohandas did not rule out the possibility of fielding V P Sanu, once again.
IUML state general secretary KPA Majeed says Kunhalikutty's resignation will not affect vote share of UDF. “We will register a remarkable victory this time also”, he said.
The UDF meeting next week will decide on the candidate in Malappuram LS seat.
Since 1962, the constituency (Called Manjeri before delimitation in 2008) had been represented by Muslim League, except during 2004 to 2009.
In 2004, CPM leader T K Hamsa registered a surprising victory in Manjeri by defeating KPA Majeed of Muslim league in 2004 LS election.
In 2014, IUML’s E Ahamed won the constituency by 1,94,739 votes. The LDF managed to increase its vote share to 36 per cent in 2017 bypoll, from 29.22% in the previous general election, mainly cashing in on the issues between IUML and Congress in different local bodies across the constituency. Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which fielded its state leader Abdul Majeed Faizi in Malappuram, after the controversy over the secret meeting of Muslim League leaders and SDPI leaders in a hotel in Kondotty, failed make major impact in election results in last LS election.
Upper Hand in Assembly Segments
It was the upper hand gained by UDF in all seven assembly segments of LS constituency that helped Kunhalikutty in 2019. When Kunhalikutty won 87,561 votes in Kondotty, Sanu managed to win only 48,248 votes there. In Manjeri, Kunhalikutty secured 85,579 votes and Sanu got 49,531 votes. Kunhalikutty got 79,867 votes in Perinthalmanna and Sanu garnered 56,829 votes.
Perinthalmanna is an LDF stronghold.
In Mankada, UDF secured 85,193 votes and Sanu got 49,928 votes. The biggest gain was in Malappuram assembly segment - Kunhalikutty bagged 94,704 votes and Sanu managed only 49,728 votes.
The margin of votes in the Vengara assembly segment is more than 50,000. But in Vallikkunnu LDF has a decent vote share - Sanu secured 44,339 votes and the UDF candidate secured 73,861 votes there.
The strong campaign of LDF highlighting developmental projects successfully implemented by the Left government across the state is likely to cut into the vote share of UDF in this assembly segment at present.
In 2019, UDF managed to increase its tally, mainly because of consolidation of minority votes and candidature of Rahul Gandhi in neighbouring Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency. As Congress was seen as a viable alternative for BJP in the Centre, the consolidation of minority votes in favour of UDF. That was a major factor which powered Kunhalikutty’s win . But this time, UDF lacks such a trend in the state. So Malappuram’s fate this time hinges on how the Kunhalikutty factor comes into play this time.
(Nijeesh Narayanan is an independent journalist based in Kozhikode)