With less than two weeks to go for the Aroor byelection, the constituency is witnessing a spirited poll campaign by all three major fronts.
Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate Manu C. Pulickal of the CPI(M), United Democratic Front (UDF) nominee Shanimol Usman of the Congress, and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate K.P. Prakash Babu of the BJP have completed their initial round of electioneering.
The election scene at Aroor is already pepped up with controversies and fiery exchanges. Last week, the police registered a case against Ms. Usman under non-bailable sections for disrupting a road repair work. The ‘Poothana’ remark made by Public Works Minister G. Sudhakaran, allegedly aimed at the UDF candidate, has further fired up the campaign.
The bypoll was necessitated after legislator A.M. Ariff of the CPI(M) got elected to the Lok Sabha from the Alappuzha Parliament seat.
Of the five constituencies going to the polls on October 21, Aroor is the LDF’s sole sitting seat. Retaining it is a matter of prestige for the front.
Regarded a CPI(M) citadel, Aroor has elected Mr. Ariff thrice in a row. The first victory came in the 2006 Assembly elections when he trounced veteran K.R. Gouri by a margin of 4,753 votes. Mr. Ariff retained the seat in the 2011 and 2016 polls by 16,852 and 38,519 votes respectively.
Ms. Gouri had won the seat nine times, including seven times as LDF candidate. However, the CPI (M) is not expecting an easy ride this time around as it has to regain the ground it lost in the Lok Sabha elections.
Although, Mr. Ariff had defeated Ms. Usman in the Alappuzha Lok Sabha seat, the Congress candidate had polled 648 more votes than her rival in the Aroor Assembly segment.
The LDF, fresh from its victory in the Pala bypoll, is largely banking on the good governance record of the State government, development works carried out in the constituency in the last 13 years, and Congress’s failure to stand up to the BJP at the Centre.
They have bet big on the Ezhava community, a dominant force in Aroor. The Left-leaning stance of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam is likely to benefit the LDF.
According to LDF insiders, the factors that had influenced the 2019 Lok Sabha polls have largely subsided and they are hopeful of winning back the confidence of Ezhava and minority voters. Muslims and Christians also have a sizeable vote share in the constituency.
The UDF is hoping to repeat the performance of the Lok Sabha elections by fielding a ‘familiar’ candidate. The UDF is citing government’s non-performance and corruption to wrest the seat. However, Ms. Usman is facing a rebel threat in the form of Geetha Ashokan, a former Youth Congress State secretary.
The NDA is leaving no stone unturned in wooing voters in the constituency. However, the uneasy relationship between the BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, two NDA constituents, is likely to impact its electoral fortunes.
The BDJS, which largely represents the Ezhava community, has decided to opt out of the bypoll citing ‘lack of respect and cohesion’ within the NDA, forcing the BJP to field its own candidate. Six candidates are in the fray in Aroor.