Kappan underscores his clout in Pala

A quiet campaign focussing on development helps him defeat Jose K. Mani

May 02, 2021 11:54 pm | Updated May 03, 2021 12:06 am IST - KOTTAYAM

Mani C. Kappan

Mani C. Kappan

In elections, once is a surprise; twice is a pattern. Two years ago, when Mani C. Kappan won Pala, a seat held by the late KC(M) leader K.M. Mani for 54 years since its formation in 1965, poll pundits treated it an ‘improbable win.’ But Mr. Kappan, who was earlier defeated by Mr. Mani thrice on the trot, was playing a longer game.

Mr. Kappan, who had readily seized on a fracture within the KC(M) to win the seat, always kept his claim for a re-election from the seat alive through systematic work. When a reshuffle of the coalition equations, triggered by the KC(M)’s decision to ally with the LDF, cast a shadow over his claim, he responded swiftly by joining the rival camp and floating a new outfit – the Nationalist Congress Kerala.

And now, the performance of Mr. Kappan over the last 16 months as a legislator, with immense support from the LDF government, has served the UDF’s purpose.

To have a shot at winning, Mr. Kappan required more than the traditional Congress votes that went against him in 2019. In a region where the Catholic church and pro-farmer politics hold a considerable sway, he always needed to motivate the middle of the road voters, who may have voted for the LDF in the previous election.

But everything went right for him ahead of the election. Even before Mr. Kappan made up his mind to exit the LDF, the UDF leadership offered a ticket for re-election. The entire coalition machinery lined up behind him and quietly ran a campaign focusing on development.

He eschewed the spotlight, but the inherent anti-Left sentiment of the rubber heartland and the personal charisma were enough to help him notch up another victory. “It is a victory of people’s power over money power,” remarked Mr. Kappan, soon after the results came out.

Meanwhile, the LDF has been forced to concede that its victory last time was an aberration. Notwithstanding the advancements it made in the local body elections, the shocking defeat this time has stunned the LDF camp.

The loss was especially brutal for the KC(M), as it has been unsuccessful in retaining Pala — a name synonymous with its founder leader K.M. Mani —for the second consecutive election.

“The result clearly points to a trading of the BJP votes in favour of the UDF as the former’s vote share came down to 10,466 from 26,533 in the 2019 bypolls. Nonetheless, it is the people’s mandate and should be honoured,” said Mr. Mani.

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