Riding on sympathy wave, UDF wins Puthuppally by record margin


Chandy Oommen with family members after casting vote during by-polls at Puthuppally, in Kottayam district, on Sept. 5, 2023.

Chandy Oommen with family members after casting vote during by-polls at Puthuppally, in Kottayam district, on Sept. 5, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The United Democratic Front workers have erupted into frenzied jubilations here as the Congress leader Chandy Oommen has won by a landslide in the by-election held to the Puthuppally Assembly constituency, a seat represented by his father Oommen Chandy for 53 years.

Riding on a massive sympathy wave triggered by the death of the veteran Congress leader and a perceived anti-incumbency wave against the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, Mr. Oommen maintained a steady lead right from the first round and raised it to 36454 votes in the final round. In the process, he has also overtaken the highest margin of 33,255 votes recorded by his father against the LDF candidate Suja Susan George in 2011.

Of the total votes polled in the election held on September 5, Mr. Oommen bagged 78,098 while the LDF candidate Jaick C. Thomas received just 41,644 votes. A formal announcement of the result is soon expected.

Excitement ran high among the UDF workers ever since the counting of votes began around 8 a.m. and as they learned about the obvious outcome halfway through, the workers took to the streets, whistling and waving party flags. At the counting centre in Baselius College Kottayam, along with all the excitement and anticipation, there was an unmistakable air of restlessness as well.

The atmosphere at the residence of Chandy Oommen was absolutely electric as youth congress workers from different parts of the states poured in and raised slogans in praise of Mr. Oommen and his late father without a break for hours. “Long live Oommen Chandy’’, the crowd chanted , over and over.

For the Left Democratic Front, particularly the CPI(M), the intense three-weeks long campaign ended in complete disappointment as it witnessed a significant drop in its vote share from 54,328 votes as recorded in the previous assembly election. The result, at the same time, also marks the third successive defeat of Mr. Thomas, who had contested against the late Chandy in 2016 and 2021, in Puthuppally.

The National Democratic Alliance, meanwhile, could be seen nowhere in the picture as its candidate G. Lijin Lal, president of the BJP Kottayam district committee, bagged just 6342 votes. In the previous assembly election, the NDA had bagged 11,694 votes

The by-election, necessitated by the death of Chandy, a veteran congress leader and two-time Chief Minister of Kerala, on July 18, had seen a high-octane campaign lasting over three weeks. While the LDF had focussed primarily on the development imbalances in the Assembly segment represented by Chandy for 53 years, the UDF countered it by highlighting the scams that have engulfed the State government. The NDA, meanwhile, had set its campaign primarily on the welfare and development programmes implemented by the Union government.

As the parties stepped up the political heat, the debates also gave way to malicious personal attacks, primarily on social media.


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