LDF candidate fourth-time lucky in Pala; factional feud in KC(M) stands him in good stead
September 27 marks a new chapter in the political history of Kerala. The day when Mani C. Kappan, Left Democratic Front candidate in Pala, proved all pundits and pollsters wrong, while delighting his supporters.
The United Democratic Front watched in disbelief as things went awry. Its defeat is conspicuous, especially in the context that the coalition candidate secured a majority of 33,472 votes in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
For Mr.Kappan, this was his fourth consecutive contest in Pala – the citadel of the Kerala Congress(M).
Candidate from 2006
In 2006, he led a quixotic campaign against the KC(M) supremo K.M. Mani and was handed a crushing defeat by a margin of 7,590 votes.
He, however, managed to lessen the margin to 5,259 against the same opponent in 2011 and it further came down to 4,703 votes in the 2016 poll.
But this time, he rode on the sympathy wave created over the string of defeats while the raging dispute between Jose K. Mani and P.J. Joseph, which ensured that the UDF candidate would not contest on the KC(M) symbol, also brightened his chances.
“The UDF will analyse the factors that led to this shock defeat and make the necessary corrections. While the Congress gave its wholehearted support, the denial of the ‘two leaves’ proved to be a setback,” said Jose K. Mani, leader of the Mani faction, who had nominated Jose Tom Pulikkunnel as the coalition candidate in Pala.
Mr.Joseph, on the other hand, chose the occasion to launch a direct attack on the rival faction and attributed the loss to the lack of maturity of Mr.Mani.
“The politics within the Kerala Congress(M) became a major talking point at a time when the politics of Kerala should have been the talking point. A person who never enjoyed popular support and had issues with Mani Sir was named the candidate and his inability to contest on the party symbol further worsened the matters,” Mr.Joseph said.
Congress leaders, meanwhile, have taken a serious note of the factional fight, which had a significant bearing on the poll outcome. “It is high time the UDF initiates action against those waging war within the coalition and create trouble for themselves,” said a senior Congress leader.
Besides the UDF, the NDA too witnessed a major erosion of its vote base, lending credence to suspicions of cross-voting, as raised by some BJP workers in Pala.
With the allegations of a vote trading against the BJP leadership, the poll outcome is expected to trigger a shake-up within the party as well as the coalition.