Thiruvananthapuram: A fall-out of the United Democratic Front's sweeping victory in the Lok Sabha polls is by-elections to six assembly segments, which will again test all three political combinations in Kerala.
Merely going by the Lok Sabha poll voting pattern, the UDF holds a clear edge in all constituencies, including Aroor, from where CPM's A M Ariff will have to vacate following his victory in Alappuzha Lok Sabha poll.
In Aroor assembly segment of Alappuzha constituency, Ariff (65,008 votes) had to concede a slight lead to Shanimol Usman, who got 65,656 votes.
But there is a catch here. In Kerala, voters treat Assembly and Lok Sabha polls with clear differentiation.
Still, if all the by-polls were to be held soon, the LDF would have a tough task to retain Aroor, the only seat it would have to defend.
The UDF would marshal all resources to wrest Aroor, once represented by K R Gowri. It may not be an easy task for the LDF to find a suitable replacement for Ariff.
The UDF may pitch Shanimol herself from Aroor, hoping to cash in on the lead she gained in the assembly segment.
The other constituencies where by-elections are to be held are all represented by the United Democratic Front (UDF) – Vattiyoorkavu, Konni, Ernakulam, Pala and Manjeswaram.
In the 2016 assembly elections, Manjeswaram was won by the Indian Union Muslim League's P B Abdul Razak.
Razak got 56,870 votes and K Surendaran of the BJP was the nearest rival with 56,781 votes. The winning margin was a mere 89. An independent candidate, Sundara K polled 467 votes, most of which would have harmed Surendran's chances. Razak passed away on October 20, 2018, necessitating a by-poll.
There was a protracted poll-malpractice related case filed by Surendran and hence the by-election was delayed in Manjeswaram.
Vattiyoorkavu and Konni are the other seats in the lot, which would witness a tough electoral battle.
In Vattiyoorkavu, an assembly segment under Thiruvananthapuram LS seat, Congress's Shashi Tharoor led by 2,836 votes, though BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan this time bettered even O Rajagopal's 2014 voting percentage.
The contest here is not going to be as simple as that as the UDF would find it tough to replace K Muraleedharan, who had a stellar stint as an MLA from Vattiyoorkavu.
It would be difficult to pick a suitable candidate to replace him for the UDF.
Indications are that the BJP may not force Kummanam again for a poll battle and instead accommodate him in the Union ministry.
But it has an array of probable candidates to field in Vattiyoorkavu.
There have been no official discussions on this, but K Surendran or Suresh Gopi could pose a serious challenge this time unless the UDF zeroes in on a candidate of the stature of Muraleedharan.
Given the drubbing it received in polls, the LDF would also move heaven and earth to put up a stern fight in Vattiyoorkavu, where T N Seema was relegated to a poor third in 2016 Assembly polls despite an LDF sweep in the state.
Surendran would again come to contention in Konni assembly segment, which would be vacated by Adoor Prakash, who toppled A Sampath in Attingal, a CPM bastion.
In Konni assembly segment, Anto Antony polled 49,667 votes. But the difference between second placed Veena George (46,946) and K Surendran (46,506) is just 940 votes.
But the advantage here for the BJP in case Surendran were to be chosen as its candidate is that Anto Antony and Veena George won't be in the picture.
The UDF's woes will again be compounded by the fact that it would be tough to find a replacement for Adoor Prakash.
So Vattiyoorkavu, Konni and Aroor will be the real battle grounds for the LDF, UDF and the BJP if assembly by-polls were to be held soon.
In Pala, only if the bickering in Kerala Congress (M) following the demise of K M Mani plays out there would be a tough contest.
Ernakulam constituency is traditionally a UDF bastion and there won't be much trouble in store.
So the political maths would have to be redefined by all players and selection of candidates would have a definite impact in by-polls.
The CPM-led LDF would have to prove that the LS setback was a different scenario. The UDF cannot bank on LS results alone to continue the momentum as it is defending four of the five seats where by-polls have to be held.
For a shattered BJP state unit, it is yet another shot at redemption.