Thiruvananthapuram | Campaign has picked up for the politically crucial June 27 Assembly bypoll in Aruvikkara in Kerala, which is witnessing a three cornered contest involving ruling Congress led UDF, CPI-M headed LDF opposition and BJP. The bypoll, necessitated following the death of former Speaker and Congress leader G Karthikeyan, is a crucial test for both the Fronts as the Assembly poll is only an year away.
The Campaign got momentum with the presence of Congress leaders including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, KPCC President V M Sudheeran and 92-year-old CPI-M veteran and opposition leader V S Achuthanandan. Achuthanandan has virtually stormed the segment near the state capital with his usual campaign style.
UDF is banking on the various welfare and development initiatives of the four-year-old government while LDF and BJP attack the government on the solar and bar bribe scams and alleged corruptions in the PWD ministry. For UDF, which came to power with a wafer thin majority of two MLA’s in 2011 and is riding on the slogan of development and care, the result is widely considered as a referendum on the performance of the government.
Chandy had said that the poll result would be a recognition to the development works and welfare measures undertaken by the government. Congress, in a bid to gain sympathy wave, has nominated 33-year-old K S Sabarinath, son of Karthikeyan as its candidate. LDF in a bid to capture the seat from Congress has fielded the experienced 66-year-old former assembly Speaker and minister M Vijayakumar (CPI-M) as its candidate.
The poll outcome is also significant for CPI-M veteran and former state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who heads the LDF campaign, as he is tipped to be the party’s Chief Minister candidate if LDF comes to power after next assembly polls. Karthikeyan had represented Aruvikkara, known as Aryanadu before delimitation, since 1991. He had won the seat last time with a margin of over 10,000 votes by defeating RSP candidate Sreedharan Nair.
Sabarinath, an engineering graduate and MBA degree holder, entered the poll arena after quitting his job as senior manager with a multi-national company. BJP, which so far failed to make a breakthrough in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state, has fielded its 86-year-old senior leader and former Union Minister O Rajagopal.
The bypoll also comes after changes in the UDF partners. Kerala Congress (B), led by R Balakrishna Pillai with lone MLA K B Ganeskumar, which snapped its ties with UDF, has openly declared support to LDF and is actively campaigning for its candidate. The RSP, with two MLAs came to the UDF camp after severing Party’s decades long association with LDF during the eve of the last Lok Sabha polls over dispute on seat sharing.
Presently UDF has 73 members, while LDF 65 in the 140 members assembly in which Ganeshkumar was keeping away from both Fronts in the House. Besides the candidates of UDF, LDF and BJP, 13 others are also in the fray, including that of former Government Chief Whip P C George, a dissident MLA of Kerala Congress(M). George, who has now been estranged from the UDF, has fielded a candidate under the banner Anti-Corruption Forum.
The segment has a total electorate of 17,6696 in which 93,353 are women. The constituency has a large number of tribal and scheduled caste population. Sharp fall in the price of natural rubber also would have its impact on poll result, as the constituency also has a good number of small and medium rubber growers.