TAMIL NADU

UDF romps home in Thiruvalla

PATHANAMTHITTA DEC. 4. Belying the theory that ``political and communal undercurrents'' would upset the United Democratic Front (UDF) applecart, the ruling front candidate, Elizabeth Mammen Mathai of the Kerala Congress (M), today won the Thiruvalla Assembly by-election by a margin of 4,669 votes over her nearest Left Democratic Front (LDF) rival, Varghese George of the Janata Dal (Secular).

Ms. Mammen's lead kept increasing after every round of counting and she could maintain a lead over her nearest rival in four of the six grama panchayats and the Thiruvalla municipality in the Assembly segment. The LDF could establish a lead only in two grama panchayats, Nedumpram and Kaviyoor.

Ms. Mammen polled 41,453 votes and the LDF candidate, 36,784 votes. The Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, K.R. Prathapachandra Varma, got 7,684 votes.

A large number of UDF workers had assembled before the Government Model Girls' High School in Thiruvalla at 8 a.m. when the counting began.

The crowd began to swell with the news that she would romp home with a comfortable margin. By 11.15 a.m., jubilant UDF workers began bursting crackers and went into a frenzy when the Returning Officer declared Ms. Mammen elected before noon.

The candidate, accompanied by the Revenue Minister, K.M. Mani, reached the counting centre in no time and signed the papers before the Returning officer.

Talking to mediapersons outside the counting centre, Mr. Mani said the victory was a landmark for the UDF and the KC(M), especially in the backdrop of the ``most unethical and unholy'' election campaign unleashed by the CPI(M)-led LDF.

He said the outcome reflected the popular support of the Antony Government. The people themselves had given a fitting reply to the critics of the Government, within and outside the coalition.

Ms. Mammen said her victory was in fact a victory for the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, and for Mr. Mani.

Dr. George, who lost the battle of ballots, said the LDF had improved its position by polling 4,600 votes more than its previous tally.

On the other hand, the UDF vote share had shrunk by 1,500 votes despite an increase in the polling percentage.

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