Pala: The "Pala Wall" built in this assembly constituency by legendary Kerala Congress (Mani) leader K.M. Mani was finally broken on Friday by the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF)-backed Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Mani C. Kappen who won the Pala bypoll by a margin of 2,943 votes.
The assembly bypoll was necessitated by the death of the sitting legislator K.M. Mani, who passed away in April. Mani had represented Pala since 1965 and the constituency will see a new MLA after a gap of over five decades. During the hectic election campaign, Kappen had often said: "One Mani will replace another Mani". Kappen had maintained a lead right from start of counting, which at one point crossed 5,000, only to see the Congress-led UDF candidate Jose Tom Pullikunnel lowering it to below 3,000.
Kappen ended up securing 54,137 votes, Pullikunnel got 51,194 and the BJP saw its votes drop below 20,000 to touch 18,044. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan thanked the electorate of Pala for giving an excellent victory to the Left-backed candidate. "This result is going to give us a good impetus in our efforts of serving the people here and will help us to serve the people even better," Vijayan said.
CPI-M State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the media in the state capital that the result is a reward for Kappen who has been with Pala all along. " At the recent Lok Sabha polls, the UDF candidate secured over 33,000 votes lead from Pala assembly constituency. The political foundation of the UDF has been shattered. If you look back, Pala was one constituency which has never been won by the Left. I call upon all our supporters to be more humble and work hard for the upcoming five assembly by-elections," Balakrishnan said.
Former Chief Minister and Congress veteran Oommen Chandy, whose home turf is Kottayam and one who led the UDF campaign, said that from the first information coming from the counting showed that the BJP's vote share had dropped considerably.
"This was not what we or any UDF supporter was expecting, but now that the results are out, we will introspect seriously on what happened. But, what is glaring is the BJP's vote share has dropped considerably," said Chandy. Surrounded by supporters at his home, a beaming Kappen said he was certain of his win and history had been created.
"The trends are as expected and the political slavery of Pala of 52 years has ended. Everyone was wanting a change and I got votes from all parties. This is the pointer for the upcoming five assembly by-elections and this is a vote for the governance of the Chief Minister," said Kappen. The Kerala Congress (Mani) is the third largest ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and had named Pullikunnel as its candidate. However, differences within the party led Pullikunnel to opt out and contest as an Independent supported by the UDF.
The vanquished party has seen differences of opinion between Mani's son, Jose K. Mani, a Rajya Sabha member, and senior party legislator P.J. Joseph, both of whom have been vying for the post of the party chairman since the death of Mani. "We accept the verdict and our party got the full support of the UDF. We will come back strongly, as, during elections, victory and defeat are common. We will bounce back with more vigour," Jose K. Mani said.
Sitting at the residence of the late Mani, a dejected Pullikunnel said: "The thief is inside our ship", hinting that he had failed to get votes from the areas he expected. "I accept the verdict and I would say, this is what God had wanted and I accept it. We will see what has happened," said Pullikunnel. Of the total 1,79,107 electorate, 1,27,939 cast their vote on Monday to decide the fate of 13 candidates.