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Stakes high for Kerala parties in bypoll

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during an election Campaign rally supporting Congress Candidate in Coimbatore on April 19, 2014. (Photo: IANS)With their prestige at stake, the ruling Congress, the CPI-M and the BJP in Kerala are gearing themselves up for the June 27 by-election to the state assembly from the Aruvikara constituency.

The bypoll in the Thiruvananthapuram district was necessitated by the death of senior Congress leader and speaker G. Karthikeyan in March 2015. It is seen as a dress rehearsal for the state’s local bodies elections later in the year and the assembly elections in 2016.

A victory would be a welcome respite for the Oommen Chandy government, weighed down as it is by the infamous bar owners bribery case in which Finance Minister K. Mani and Excise Minister K. Babu are under the scanner for allegedly receiving money from cash-rich bar owners in the state.

A by-election victory will tend to disprove the opposition Left’s theory that the state government has trademarked corruption in governance.

Besides, the Congress would like to take forward the political legacy of Karthikeyan, who won the last five elections from the Aruvikara constituency. To ensure victory, the Congress has been pressurising M.T. Sulekha, the widow of Karthikeyan and a retired college professor, to throw her hat in the ring.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist also is striving hard for the Aruvikara bypoll win as it can ill afford yet another electoral loss after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from the state, three assembly by-elections in 2009, the 2010 local bodies polls and the 2011 assembly polls.

Even when the Congress was swept away by the BJP wave across the country in the 2014 general elections, it managed to edge out the Left opposition by winning 12 of the 20 parliamentary seats in the state.

CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan will spearhead the party’s by-election campaign to ensure its cadres work with military precision. In all probability, Vijayan would be the chief ministerial candidate of the Left in the 2016 assembly elections.

The CPI-M will most probably field former minister and speaker M. Vijayakumar, who incidentally hails from this rural constituency.

As for the BJP, a win is long overdue since the party is yet to open its account in the 140-member Kerala assembly. The BJP is most likely to field battle-hardened O. Rajagopal, who nearly won the Thiruvananthapuram parliamentary seat for the BJP in 2014. It could be his last tryst with electoral politics since he is now 81.

So, one of the most keenly fought electoral battle is all set to play out in the coming days and all three parties could press an array of national-level leaders to secure the victory of their respective candidates.