In major setback for the CPI(M) and Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala, party MLA R. Selvaraj has resigned.

Mr. Selvaraj, who represents the Neyyattinkara constituency close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border some 25 kilometres from here, took almost the entire political community in the State by surprise Friday morning by personally handing over his resignation to Speaker G. Karthikeyan. He also resigned his membership in the CPI(M) district committee, but said he would continue to be an ordinary member of the party.

Confirming the development at a news conference at Neyyattinkara, Mr. Selvaraj said that he had decided to put in his resignation pained by factionalism in the party and on being targeted by a section in the district party leadership. He had received no relief despite complaining to the State leadership. “Normally, factionalism would end once party conferences are over, but it is going on even now. Criticism at all conferences have been focused on a single individual,” Mr. Selvaraj, but refused to identify whom he meant.

With Mr. Selvaraj’s resignation, the strength of the LDF in the Kerala Assembly has fallen to 67 in a House of 140, with a byelection due in the Piravom Assembly constituency on March 17. He had defeated Congress strongman Thampanoor Ravi by 6,702 votes in the Neyyattinkara constituency in the 2011 May Assembly elections.

Mr. Selvaraj was shifted to Neyyattinkara against his wishes. He had wanted to fight the election from neighbouring Parassala which he had represented in the last Assembly. His victory in Neyyattinkara had come as a surprise, as surprising as the defeat of former district panchayat president and party State committee member Anavoor Nagappan, for whom he was asked to vacate Parassala constituency, resulting in a sharp attack against him from a powerful section in the district party. He had come in for attack in party conferences at all levels and was not even included as a delegate in the just-concluded CPI(M) State conference.