Congress workers take out victory laps across Kerala to celebrate Puthupally by-election win


Congress worker’s celebrate in Kochi after Chandy Oommen’s emphatic by-election win on September 08, 2023.

Congress worker’s celebrate in Kochi after Chandy Oommen’s emphatic by-election win on September 08, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Congress workers took out victory laps across Kerala to celebrate Chandy Oommen’s emphatic by-election win on Friday on the party’s home turf in Puthupally Assembly constituency.

The almost 40,000 votes lead over his Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] rival Jaick. C. Thomas also imbued the Congress with confidence after being turfed out of power in two consecutive Assembly elections in 2016 and 2021.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran said the Congress has carved a clear path to victory in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and beyond. He said Congress had forcefully won Thrikkakara in 2021 and now Puthupally.

Mr. Sudhakaran said the by-election victories in the two Assembly constituencies and the United Democratic Front (UDF) good showing in the local body by-polls earlier in the year painted a truly ominous picture for the CPI(M).

He said Mr. Oommen’s decisive win with a historically high margin of votes had dispelled the CPI(M) ‘s impish insinuation that Congress benefitted from BJP votes.

Mr. Sudhakaran said voters had delivered a clear and resounding verdict against the “corruption-ridden” Pinarayi Vijayan government. The political message would echo in future elections, he said.

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala claimed that CPI(M) workers voted for the United Democratic Front (UDF) overwhelmingly. He said they wreaked revenge on the Pinarayi Vijayan government, which had “failed the people on all fronts”.

“CPI(M) could not get a convincing lead in any booth, or panchayat thought it controlled a majority of the local bodies and cooperative societies in Puthupally”, Mr. Chennithala said.

Congress Working Committee (CWC) member A.K. Antony said the scale of the verdict against the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was staggering.

He said late Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who represented the constituency for 53 years, was the unfortunate victim of a hurtful political witch-hunt prosecuted by the LDF. “The people have paid back for the government’s failed attempt to visit ignominy on the late leader and his family,“ he said.

A succession of UDF leaders sought to cast the party’s win in the by-election as a litmus test of the government.

Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) State General Secretary P.M.A. Salam said the LDF had tested the limits of voters’ patience by failing to curb food inflation and exacerbating the cost of living crisis by hiking fuel, power and water charges.

Moreover, he alleged, the LDF saddled the people with extortionate taxes to compensate for the government’s financial crisis.

Leader of Opposition V. D. Satheesan said voters found Mr Vijayan’s obstinate refusal to address corruption scandals against his office and family disdainful.

He said that UDF successfully ran an anti-incumbent campaign that turned out voters in enough numbers to send a clear message to the CPI(M).

CPI(M) leaders said Puthupally’s results had not altered the status quo. Congress merely retained its existing 21 seats in the Assembly.

Moreover, the CPI(M) believed the “sympathy factor” worked to Congress’ advantage, with the Election Commission of India (ECI) declaring the by-poll close on the heels of Chandy’s passing. The party did not discount cross-voting to advantage Congress, given BJP’s loss of voter share.

Nevertheless, CPI(M) seemed to draw solace from the past. An insider pointed out that Congress leader G. Karthikeyan’s son, K.S. Sabarinathan, won the Aruvikkara Assembly election following the incumbent’s death in 2015.

Nevertheless, Mr. Sabarinath could not repeat his victory in the 2021 Assembly elections. The CPI(M) also maintained that it was perilous to prognosticate based on two by-elections, and more significant national issues would come into play in the 2024 Lok Sabha campaign.


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