All-party meet decides to write to EC to call off Kerala bypolls

All-party meet today to decide on local body elections, bypolls

Thiruvananthapuram: Political parties in Kerala, irrespective of ideological positions, have decided to request the central election commission to call off the two Assembly bypolls in the state scheduled for sometime in November.

The ruling CPM, the opposition Congress, the BJP as well as their allies share a consensus that the bypolls to Kuttanad and Chavara constitutions are inessential at a time when the state assembly elections are due for April, next year. The parties also cited the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic spread in the state as well as the financial burden the bypolls will put on them.

The parties took the decision at an all-party meet convened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday. A recommendation in this regard will be sent to the election commission.

“Even if the bypolls are held in November, the newly elected MLAs will get only three full months in office. An election for such a small tenure is unnecessary. This is the view shared by the participants of the all-party meet,” Vijayan told media after the meeting.

Postponement of local polls

The all-party meet also decided to request the state election commission to postpone the local-self governments elections scheduled for November in the wake of the rise in the COVID cases.

While the opposition Congress-led UDF pushed for the postponement of the local body polls, the BJP took a firm stance that the polls have to take place as scheduled. The government, however, agreed to the UDF's view.

“The government does not want the local body polls to be postponed indefinitely. However, given the COVID situation in the state, we will request the state election commission to push the dates a little bit and take a call as per the COVID situation in the state,” the chief minister said.

He said the government will not suggest any date for local body polls in its letter to the commission as it would not be proper. “The new local body governments are supposed to take charge in November. There is a constitutional liability to ensure that the elections take place on time,” the CM said. He said the two bypolls meant to elect a representative for barely four months cannot be compared to the local body polls to elect new civic body governments for the next five years.

The central election commission had last week announced that bypolls pending in 65 constituencies in the country, including the two in Kerala, will be held along with the Bihar state polls due in October-November.

Kuttanad and Chavara seats fell vacant following the deaths of Thomas Chandy and N Vijayan Pillai, both belonging to the ruling Left Democratic Front. The outcome of the bypolls would not affect the composition of the state legislature, where the CPM-led LDF has a comfortable majority. The current Kerala Assembly's term would expire on May 19, 2021.

Campaign on

Despite the unwillingness to contest the bypolls, the major parties in the state have initiated talks over candidate selection. The UDF has even announced candidates for both Chavara and Kuttanad. RSP leader Shibu Baby John will seek the mandate from Chavara while Kerala Congress (Joseph faction)'s Jacob Abraham will be the UDF candidate in Kuttanad, if the elections take place.

LDF is likely to field Thomas Chandy's brother Thomas K Thomas from Kuttanad while the front has not decided on a candidate for Chavara.

The bypolls, if go on as scheduled, will be a trailer for the assembly polls. The results can be a bellwether of the possible mandate in 2021 provided the two constituencies' track record of siding with both LDF and UDF in the past. The bypolls could also be an indicator of which political narrative has got an upper hand in the current circumstances.

The LDF has exuded confidence to win both the seats riding on the government's development and welfare initiatives while the UDF is hoping to cash in on the fall of the government's image following the controversies surrounding the gold smuggling case and other allegations.

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