Any adverse electoral fallout in Thrikkakara by-poll may have an impact on Rahul Gandhi because this falls in the state he represents as a member of Parliament and KC Venugopal because it is his home state, reports Shine Jacob.
Soon after the Congress’s Navsankalp Chintan Shivir, organised in Udaipur, the Congress leadership will be facing its first electoral test at the Thrikkakara (Ernakulam district) by-election in Kerala to be held on May 31, 2022.
Though it is considered one of the easiest battles by many, a lot is at stake for Rahul Gandhi, All India Congress Committee general secretary KC Venugopal, and the state leadership.
Any adverse electoral fallout may have an impact on Gandhi because this falls in the state he represents as a member of Parliament and Venugopal because it is his home state.
For the Communist Party of India-Marxist, on the other hand, it is a battle to win a seat it has never won.
“This is a litmus test for the CPI-M, which returned to power with a bigger margin. This is the time to scrutinise the party. We will definitely win and win with a bigger margin than last time,” VD Satheesan, the Leader of the Opposition in Kerala, told Business Standard.
In a rare instance, unity was evident when the state Congress announced the candidature of Uma Thomas, immediately after the election notification.
Uma is the wife of the late MLA PT Thomas, whose death necessitated the by-election.
There are critics who indicate the Congress probably wanted to cash in on the sympathy factor.
On the other hand, the CPI-M’s candidate came as a surprise to many when Jo Joseph, a cardiologist, was chosen.
“The Left Democratic Front candidate is not a party candidate and has positives and negatives. He is not a widely known social figure. This election is more important for the Congress as it is a sitting seat,” said A Jayashankar, a senior political analyst.
According to him, for the CPI-M, even if it loses, it will be in a constituency it never won.
The Thrikkakara constituency was created in 2011 and since then only the Congress has won there.
The by-poll is not a politically important battle in the state’s context either because the Pinarayi Vijayan government has the support of 99 of the 140 MLAs.
Hence the chief minister has termed this a chance to take the tally to 100.
For the ruling LDF, the polls are a mode to gauge whether its popularity has increased in the past one year and also to check whether its surprise candidate worked in the constituency.
The lack of serious political issues other than the ambitious K-Rail project is a concern for the Congress, according to political experts.
“Other than K-Rail there are no major issues. There is no anti-incumbency factor,” said Jayashankar.
The project between Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram, called as SilverLine or the K-Rail project, witnessed widespread protests across the state, spread across districts like Kozhikode, Malappuram, Alappuzha, Kasaragod, and Ernakulam, against the laying of survey stones.
The project cost is around Rs 63,941 crore.
“This is not a Left but an extreme right government. They are not thinking about sustainable development. Moreover, they are doing both majority and minority appeasement,” Satheesan added.
The absence of Twenty20, a political wing of Kitex Group, is also likely to play a key role because the party reportedly has a good share of the vote in the constituency.
Twenty20, along with the Aam Aadmi Party, has said it is not keen on contesting the by-poll with no political implications.
Kitex’s party is in power in the nearby Kizhakkambalam panchayat and had got 11 per cent, or 13,897 votes, in the 2021 assembly polls.
Experts indicate that these votes may equally split between the Congress and the Left.
On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which fielded AN Radhakrishnan, is also targeting an increase in vote share from 11.3 per cent.
There are other political issues the Congress is highlighting, including political and communal murders.
“Kerala is a goonda corridor now, with such murders on the rise. The state is seeing the highest drug trafficking in India, even more than some Northern states. The CPI-M is protecting such mafias,” Satheesan alleged.
He is highlighting the financial stability of the state also.
“The state transport corporation has been destroyed. The state does not have the money to pay salaries. Public sector entities like the electricity board and water authority too are feeling the heat,” he added.
Till the results are out on June 3, political calculations and speculation may go on. But it is evident that the Congress has more to lose if it does not win.