Kerala by-poll: Battle begins formally


The by-poll battle in Kerala’s Piravam Assembly constituency in Ernakulam district started formally with the rival candidates of the Congress-led ruling UDF and CPI(M)-headed Opposition LDF filing their nominations on Monday. The by-election in Piravam is to be held on March 17.

The by-poll was necessitated in Piravam due to the death of sitting member TM Jacob, Food minister in the UDF Government, on October 30 last. The Election Commission had first announced Sunday, March 18 as the date for polling but this was advanced by a day last week following requests from almost all the political parties.

Anoop Jacob of the Kerala Congress (J), a minor constituent of the UDF, and LDF candidate MJ Jacob of the CPI(M) filed their nominations before Assistant Returning Officer M Aravindakshan Nair, Bloch Development Officer of Pambakkuda. For Anoop, son of TM Jacob and State president of the youth wing of his party, this is his first electoral battle.

This is the third battle for Assembly seat as far as veteran Marxist MJ Jacob is concerned and his two previous fights were in Piravam itself. He had defeated TM Jacob in Piravam by a margin of 5,350 votes in the 2006 Assembly election. He lost the 2011 election to TM Jacob but succeeded in proving that his popularity was still intact as the defeat was by a margin of just 157 votes.

Both Anoop and MJ Jacob expressed confidence in winning the by-election. “The UDF would register a historic win in Piravam this time,” Anoop said while MJ Jacob claimed, “The welfare measures adopted by the former LDF government and other factors would ensure my victory. BJP candidate KR Rajagopal had filed his papers on Saturday.

The by-poll is crucial for the UDF Government headed by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, surviving on wafer thin majority with just 71 elected members including the Speaker in the 140-strong Assembly while the LDF has 68 members. A defeat in Piravam would further weaken the UDF position as the Opposition tally would rise to 69 strengthening chances of horse-trading.

The LDF has entrusted its star campaigner VS Achuthanandan to lead the electioneering for MJ Jacob, hoping that his fight against corruption and immorality in politics would work wonders once again. However, the rampant divisionism in the CPI(M), its standoff with front partner CPI and loss of the support of Christian Church are worrying the LDF.

Groupism in the Congress party, disunity in the coalition it leads, a vexed dispute between two sections of the mighty Syrian Orthodox Church are some of the factors that are worrying the UDF but Anoop hopes to cash in on a possible sympathy wave for his dead father which could turn the outcome in his favour.

The BJP’s aim is to become the determining force in this by-election. In the 2011 election, BJP’s MN Madhu had scored 4,234 votes improving upon the 3.355 votes party candidate KV Sabu had bagged in the 2006 Assembly polls. The party has already indicated that its primary objective would be to defeat the UDF led by the Congress.

Meanwhile, State Chief electoral Officer Nalini Netto forwarded to the Election Commission of India the complaint filed by the LDF that Power Minister Aryadan Muhammad of the Congress had violated the model code of conduct by announcing in Piravam that Anoop would be made a Minister if he won the election.

Polling for the by-election in Piravam will be held on March 17 and the date for counting is March 21. Filing of nominations will close on Wednesday and the papers will be scrutinized on March 1. The last date for withdrawal of nominations has been fixed as March 3.