“I never had doubts about my victory. Voters in Manjeswaram know me well and that is why they elected me," AKM Ashraf beamed after ensuring his victory in Manjeswaram assembly constituency on Sunday.
United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate Ashraf of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) defeated National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate and Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) state president K Surendran after a close contest.
IUML has been winning Manjeswaram since 1987, barring 2006.
Brief history of Manjeswaram
Manjeswaram had elected representatives of four major political parties – Congress, CPI, CPM and IUML – and two independent candidates, but it never favoured BJP. The saffron party finished runners-up in seven consecutive elections.
This was Surendran’s third failed attempt from Manjeswaram. In 2016, he lost the battle to P B Abdul Razak by a narrow margin of 89 votes. He had questioned the verdict in the High Court, but he withdrew the case after Razak’s demise in 2018. A by-election ensued in 2019. IUML’s M C Kamaruddhin won the poll, defeating BJP’s Ravisha Tantri by 7,923 votes. Surendran debuted from the constituency in 2011.
Ashraf hails from Manjeswaram and claims to be representing linguistic minorities. During the campaign, he told this correspondent that he hoped to win votes cutting across religious lines.
Tulu and Kannadiga voters form close to half of the electorate here. Issues of Tulu and Kannada speakers, such as lack of adequate educational institutions and quality teaching staff figured prominently in the election here.
His opponents, K Surendran of BJP and VV Rameshan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), were not from Manjeswaram.
I never had doubts about my victory. Voters in Manjeswaram know me well and that is why they elected me.
Support of Sunni factions
Indications are that all sections of Muslims, including two dominant factions of Sunnis, voted for Ashraf.
Majority of Muslims in Manjeswaram are Sunnis, and they belong to either AP or EK faction.
The Sunnis had split in 1989 following differences between its two main leaders, the late EK Aboobacker Musliyar and AP Aboobacker Musliyar. The splinter groups came to be known as EK and AP factions. Both factions appear to be favouring Ashraf this time. In 2016, the AP Sunni faction had ditched Abdul Razak and the split had helped K Surendran to finish a close second then.
UDF’s steady growth
An analysis of vote share in the Assembly elections in 2016 and 2019 (bypoll) showed that only UDF registered positive growth in all the eight gram panchayats in three years.
The biggest growth of 1,630 votes was registered in Mangalpady, followed by Vorkady (1597), Kumbla (1139), Meenja (1133), Manjeswaram (977), Puthige (974), Paivalike (688) and Enmakaje (241) gram panchayats. (This is the difference of votes garnered in 2019 and 2016).
NDA registered negative growth in Manjeswaram (It got 157 votes less than it polled in 2016) and Enmakaje (-37). It showed positive growth in other six gram panchayats. (Puthige 908, Meenja 438, Vorkady 376, Paivalike 205, Kumbla 29, Mangalpady 4).
LDF registered negative growth in all gram panchayats, except Puthige (728) and Enmakaje (5).