Kottayam: In a battle of prestige, rivals Congress and Left will take on each other at the Puthuppally bypoll here on Tuesday, with the opposition party banking on “anti-incumbency” and the late Oommen Chandy’s legacy while the ruling front aims for an upset win in this traditional Congress stronghold.
Preparations are in place for holding the election in the constituency which has around 1.75 lakh registered voters who will decide whether Congress-led UDF should retain the seat or if LDF attains the figure of 100 MLAs in the state assembly.
The ruling bloc’s current tally is 99 in the 140-member Kerala Assembly, while the opposition UDF has 41 members.
The voters may also decide whether to give the BJP a representative in the state assembly, in an election that comes months ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The saffron party currently has nil representation in the House.
The bypoll was necessitated on account of the death of former Kerala Chief Minister and Congress stalwart Oommen Chandy in July this year.
The by-election was announced less than a month after his demise.
Voting will take place in 182 polling stations in the constituency.
The Congress-led UDF opposition has fielded Chandy’s son, Chandy Oommen, in an apparent strategy to bank on the sympathy wave following the former CM’s death.
On the other hand, the ruling Left once again decided to go with DYFI leader Jaick C Thomas who had unsuccessfully contested from the segment in 2016 and 2021 against the late Chandy.
The BJP has fielded its Kottayam district president G Lijinlal.
Besides these, four other candidates — one from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and three independent contestants — are also in the fray.
Oommen’s sister Achu, speaking to reporters here today, said she expected her brother to win by a big margin. During the campaigning, a major anti-incumbency sentiment was seen among the people due to the corruption allegations against the government, ricing prices and farmers’ plight among others, she said.
“These are big anti-incumbency factors,” she added.
Above all, Chandy was also a factor, but not as a sympathy for his death, she said.
“He is a factor due to the amount of work he did for the constituency when he represented it for 53 years,” she said.
LDF pick Thomas said the turnout for the previous day’s ‘Kottikalasham’ — a face-off between supporters of the rival parties to the beats of percussion instruments — indicated the extent of support enjoyed by the Left front in the constituency and it was visible to all.
Appearing confident of a win, he said the ruling front had a good showing in the 2021 assembly polls in Puthuppally even though it lost.
Therefore, this time round the outcome would be in favour of the LDF, he asserted.
Thomas also said that during the day he would be visiting 21 centres as part of the silent campaign.
Meanwhile, Lijinlal alleged that both the LDF and UDF were hand-in-glove with each other.
He also contended that defaming opponents was not the BJP’s strategy.
The counting of votes would be done on September 8.