Will Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan make his Left Democratic Front's tally in the Kerala assembly a prestigious 100 or will the Congress-led United Democratic Front restrict the number to the existing 99? The voters of the Thrikkakara assembly constituency in Ernakulam district will decide the answer to these questions on Tuesday. Voting for the Thrikkakara bypoll, the first during the second term of the Vijayan-led LDF government, will take place on Tuesday. Preparations for polling have been completed at all the 239 booths in the constituency where the bypoll was necessitated with the death of Congress legislator P T Thomas.
There are eight candidates in the fray but the fight is between the UDF's Uma Thomas and the LDF's Dr Jo Joseph. The BJP which has ended up in a distant third in all the three assembly polls in the constituency claims it would emerge victorious this time. Formed in 2011, Thrikkakara has elected only Congress MLAs so far.
Voting will begin at 7am. Even though none of the polling booths has been classified as sensitive, fool-proof security has been arranged everywhere, district collector Jafer Malik informed.
On the poll eve, all the three major contestants exuded confidence of winning. Dr Joseph, whose selection as the CPM candidate has caused a controversy, on Monday reiterated his poll plank that Thrikkakara will elect a ruling MLA this time. "Ernakulam is an economic hub of Kerala and Thrikkakara is one of the most important constituencies here. But Thrikkakara does not have the proportionate development. Since its formation, the constituency has been ruled by the UDF. The Left government got a second term because of the developmental agenda. So, the people of Thrikkakara have understood this and will vote for the Left," Joseph said.
Uma Thomas, widow of former MLA P T Thomas, told PTI that she would like to carry forward the development dreams of her late husband.
"First of all, this is a UDF constituency. Secondly, this constituency was well looked after by PT (Thomas). This byelection was necessitated by his untimely death. He used to meet the people and used to take proactive steps for them. PT was like a family member for the people here. It's a huge factor," Uma said.
Meanwhile, BJP candidate A N Radhakrishnan is confident that with the support of senior politician P C George, who was recently arrested and released on bail in two hate speech cases, the National Democratic Front will win the polls.
The candidates on Monday continued their silent campaign after the high-octane electioneering ended on Sunday in a grand event.
Dr Joseph carried out one more round of house visits in all possible areas in the constituency while Uma began her day with a ride on Kochi Metro to interact with the passengers. She then carried out a door-to-door campaign in a final bid to ensure some votes. In between, she also attended a formation day function of the Kerala Students Union (KSU) in which she was active during her college days.
BJP candidate A N Radhakrishnan visited the Poornathrayeesha temple in Tripunithura in the morning. He also engaged in a door-to-door campaign later.
The constituency, which was formed in 2011, had elected senior Congress leader Benny Behanan as its first MLA.
In the 2016 assembly election, P T Thomas secured 61,268 votes, which was 45.42 per cent of the electorate while CPM's Sebastian Paul bagged 49,455 votes. That year, BJP's S Saji secured 21,247 votes.
However, in 2021, Thomas won with a slightly reduced of 59,839 while CPM backed Dr J Jacob got 45,510 votes. BJP had bagged 15,483 in the 2021 polls.
Meanwhile, Twenty20, a political party backed by industrial group Kitex, had fielded a candidate in 2021 and secured 13,897 votes.
Even though Twenty20 had entered into an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party this time, they have not fielded a candidate but asked the people to vote judiciously.
The Left party has deployed all its party mechanisms in the constituency which the Congress considers as its impregnable fortress. Several Left front leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues, and other MLAs were camping in the constituency to wrest back the seat from the Congress.
The Congress leaders, however, are confident that its traditional seat that stood strong with it even when there was a Left wave in 2021 would elect Uma Thomas to the state Assembly.
Both the parties have raked up the SilverLine project as an election campaign.
While the Congress-backed UDF campaigned that the proposed K-Rail is an expensive project which will also evict people from their homes, the CPM has projected the developmental aspects of the semi-high speed rail project.
Though the campaign began on claims and counter claims on development it took some nasty turns towards the end with the circulation of a sleaze video intended to defame Dr Joseph. Though the LDF has accused the UDF of perpetrating the video, the latter has got back saying the truth will come out if the police could trace the origin of the video.
The stance of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, a prominent community in the constituency, was also a hot topic throughout the campaign as Joseph was accused of being a nominee of the church leadership. Though the church has distanced itself from such controversies, the undercurrents stemming from the rift within the church is perceived to be playing a role in the voting.
The vote counting is on June 3.