Kerala

After 23 years, Konni switches loyalties

A bus passenger greeting K.U. Janeeshkumar at a victory rally taken out by LDF workers in Konni town on Thursday.

A bus passenger greeting K.U. Janeeshkumar at a victory rally taken out by LDF workers in Konni town on Thursday.  

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‘Congress paid a huge price for its overconfidence’

It was a dream victory for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Konni. The front’s candidate, K.U. Janeeshkumar of the CPI(M), defeated his nearest United Democratic Front (UDF) rival P. Mohanraj of the Congress by a margin of 9,953 votes.

Mr. Janeeshkumar got 54,099 votes against the 44,146 votes polled by Mr. Mohanraj. K. Surendran of the Bharatiya Janata Party secured 39,786 votes to remain at the third position. Jomon Joseph Srambickal and Sivanandan, two independent candidates, got 235 and 124 votes respectively. Forty-five votes were invalid while NOTA polled 469 votes.

With this win, the LDF has wrested all the five Assembly constituencies in Pathanamthitta. Thiruvalla, Aranmula, Adoor, and Ranni are the other four.

Konni had backed the UDF ever since the election of Congress candidate Adoor Prakash in 1996. Mr. Prakash won in the next four consecutive polls, and that too with increased margins of victory. He had improved his margin of victory from 806 votes in the 1996 general elections to 20,748 votes in 2016.

Whiff of change

However, certain marked changes could be sensed in the political mindset of the constituency against the backdrop of the agitation launched by the Sangh Parivar-led Sabarimala Samrakshana Samiti a year ago. The effect was felt at the Lok Sabha elections held in May.

The Lok Sabha polls witnessed a sharp increase in the vote share of BJP which highlighted the Sabarimala women’s entry issue and the alleged police excesses at Nilackal, Pampa and Sabarimala during the pilgrimage season. Of the 1,44,548 votes polled in the Konni Assembly segment in the Lok Sabha polls, Anto Antony of Congress got 49,667 votes (34.36%) while Veena George of CPI(M) and K. Surendran of the BJP got 46,946 votes (32.47%) and 46,506 votes (32.17%) respectively.

“The Congress had mistaken the popularity of Mr. Prakash, who used to maintain a close rapport with all sections of people in the constituency, for an unbeatable advantage to the party itself. The party had to pay a heavy price for its overconfidence,” said a Congress worker.

The selection of the party candidate without taking Mr. Prakash into confidence and the resultant internal squabbles in the Congress camp, coupled with the delayed start of the poll campaign, resulted in Mr. Mohanraj’s loss, he said.

The systematic campaigning by the LDF and its close monitoring by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and party State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan worked to the LDF candidate’s advantage.

BJP vote share

K. Surendran of BJP secured 30% of the votes in the Konni bypoll in sharp contrast to the 12% and 18% predictions made in the two exit polls. “The BJP’s vote share in Konni has jumped to 39,786 from the 16,000 votes polled in the 2016 Assembly polls. This is a major achievement,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Janeeshkumar said the LDF victory was a public recognition to the pro-people development agenda of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. Mr. Mohanraj said the favourable stand taken by the Nair Service Society had not harmed the UDF in Konni. But, the front failed to get expected votes from certain areas and the party would look into it, he said.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 8:47:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/after-23-years-konni-switches-loyalties/article29790099.ece

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