Neyattinkara by-poll crucial for Kerala parties (Kerala Newsletter)

May 19th, 2012 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Thiruvananthapuram, May 19 (IANS) For the rival political groupings in Kerala, the Neyattinkara by-election to the state assembly in June is proving a testing time. The poll is crucial for both as the campaign enters a crucial phase.

The electoral battle, scheduled for June 2, appears to have become an issue of prestige for the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) after its sitting legislator R.Selvaraj delivered a snub to the party. He not only resigned from the assembly, necessitating the by-poll, but quit the party too.

Selvaraj initially had said that it was “better to commit suicide” than join hands with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). But then, he did a complete u-turn by joining the Congress party and becoming its official candidate.

The CPI-M has fielded a local grassroot level leader in F. Lawerence, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has gone for the best bet in 83-year-old former union minister O. Rajagopal.

The BJP is yet to open an electoral account in the state and does not have a single member in the 140-member Kerala assembly. The by-election will be the litmus test for the party.

Rajagopal had surprised many by coming second in the 2011 assembly polls in the neighbouring Nemom constituency. The upcoming by-election will see whether he retains the appeal among the electorate - and his winning record.

The Oommen Chandy government, which has a wafer thin majority of just four seats in the assembly, would gain more solidity if Selvaraj emerges victorious in the coming by-poll.

The ruling party had in March won the by-election in the Piravom constituency.

“Any election would assess and measure the performance of not only the government, but also of the opposition. We are fully geared and just like what happened in Piravom, we are a united house and there is no question of the outcome, we will win,” said Chandy, who is spearheading the campaign in Neyattinkara.

For the CPI-M, its woes do not seem to be abating. The murder of a former Marxist firebrand in Kozhikode, blamed on CPI-M workers, has led to another showdown between the CPI-M’s state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

The murder has become Kerala’s talking point, and the CPI-M’s discomfiture has provided some relief to Chandy.

All this makes the Neyattinkara by-election a ‘do or die’ battle for the CPI-M.

Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, the star campaigner of the Marxists, is confident that the electorate in Neyattinkara will show the door to what he calls “turncoat” candidate.

“What is to be noted is that as the Chandy government celebrates its first anniversary, they have thrust an election on the people simply because of the ugly arm-twisting tactics employed by them,” said Achuthanandan.

“They played a dirty political game by engineering a defection and then use the same person as their candidate. They have undone what we did in the previous five years. Just see the farmer’s suicides rate… besides all round stagnation has also happened,” he added.

The Congress, meanwhile, is upbeat about its high-profile campaigner and Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is arriving end of the month, to conduct his own road show in the by-poll.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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