For the ruling CPI-M in Kerala, stakes are high in the Aroor Assembly by-election as the party had won the seat by 38,000 votes in 2016. Of the five by-elections on October 21, the rest four were held by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
A.M. Ariff had won the Aroor constituency in the 2016 Assembly poll. He quit the seat after getting elected to the Lok Sabha by defeating Shanimol Usman, a veteran Congresswoman leader.
However, Usman led by 648 votes in the Aroor Assembly constituency, which is part of the Alappuzha Lok Sabha seat, and Ariff could win the parliamentary poll by only 10,474 votes.
This time too, the contest is mainly between the CPI-M and the Congress. While the Congress has fielded Usman, the CPI-M has nominated Manu C. Pulickal, vice-president of the CPI-M’s youth organisation DYFI, who began his political career in the campus in the Alappuzha district.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Prakash Babu, who hails from Kozhikode in north Kerala.
For the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), in 2016 this seat was contested by the BJDS, its ally, which garnered over 27,000 votes. But this time, it’s said to be upset with the BJP’s big brother attitude.
Pulickal’s strength stems from the manner Ariff nurtured this constituency for the past 13 years and the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government’s performance for the past three years.
“It’s easy for us to relate to voters because of numerous development projects initiated by Ariff. The performance of the Vijayan government is an advantage for us. We have no doubts about the outcome,” said Pulickal.
Usman is treating this as her last chance in electoral politics as she has failed to win the seat despite getting a few opportunities. The Congress too is geared up. It asked senior legislator P.T. Thomas to work in the constituency, much before the by-election was announced.
“We are confident that this time Usman will win. She is a popular figure in the area and needs no introduction. Also, a few months back she was campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections here,” said Thomas.
The CPI-M was unlikely to win, as despite winning the seat for the past three elections and they had failed to deliver on their promises, Thomas added.
A tongue in cheek remark by State Public Works Department Minister G. Sudhakaran calling Usman a demoness has not gone down well with the electorate. Her supporters have also organised protests.
Realising the folly, Sudhakaran, known for his razor-sharp tongue, made amends by saying he and Usman were good friends and her husband was a very old friend of his.
But the CPI-M, known for the systematic campaigns, is leaving nothing to chance. They very well know losing Aroor would mean curtains for Vijayan.