Chengannur assembly bypoll: Triangular contest between LDF,UDF, BJP

Kerala, known for its decades-long bipolar politics, is witnessing a fierce triangular fight between ruling LDF, opposition UDF and BJP-led NDA in Chengannur assembly bypoll, scheduled for May 28. Electioneering has hotted up in the constituency, located in Central Kerala, as the battle is a do or die for all the three fronts. The bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting MLA K K Ramachandran Nair (CPI-M) in January this year due to illness. Winning the seat is a matter of prestige for the CPI(M)-led LDF as the poll result would be evaluated as the performance of the two-year-old government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The focus of LDFs election campaign is on the achievements of the Vijayan government and the negative fall out of the demonetisation and flaws in implementing GST and the alleged communal agenda of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. The by-election is a golden opportunity for the Congress-led UDF to wrest its traditional seat from LDF, which had won Chengannur the 2016 Assembly polls ending the years-long supremacy of the rival front. Besides raking up the anti-people policies of both the Centre and the state governments, the Congress is also campaigning against the political violence allegedly unleashed by the ruling CPI(M) in the state. The BJP-led NDA is also leaving no stone unturned for a victory as the saffron front had garnered 16 per cent of the total votes polled in the constituency last time and came third securing around 42,000 votes. During the campaign, BJP is banking on the achievements of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. While CPI(M)s Saji Cheriyan, the partys Alappuzha district secretary, is the candidate of LDF, Congress leader D Vijayakumar is the UDF nominee. Former BJP president P S Sreedharan Pillai, who had given a tough fight to both LDF and UDF in the 2016 election, is trying his luck again in the constituency. However, the sore relation between BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a key ally of the party-led NDA, has posed a problem to the saffron party in the constituency. BDJS, the party formed by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, an organisation of the powerful backward Ezhava community in the state, has decided to keep away from the campaign for the BJP candidate. Led by Thushar Vellappally, son of SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellappally Natesan, BDJS has complained that BJP had not fulfilled any of the promises they had made during the time of the tie-up. All the three fronts are keeping their fingers crossed as the Kerala Congress (M)-led by former minister K M Mani, which has significant presence in the constituency, is yet to announce its election stand. KC-M, which was a key partner in the UDF, had left the front after the 2016 assembly polls and was keeping an equidistance from all three fronts. Chengannur, located in Alappuzha district, is one of the major transit camps of lakhs of Ayyappa devotees who visit the famed Sabarimala Temple in nearby Pathanamthitta district during the annual pilgrim season from November-March.