All three political fronts in Kerala are seeking to create a new record by attempting to win the upcoming by-election in the Pala assembly constituency on September 23. This would be the first time since 1965 that a person other than Kerala Congress (Mani) founder KM Mani will represent Pala. The by-election was necessitated by the death of Mani in April 2019. While he first won in 1965, he could not take oath as the state was placed under President’s rule till two years later.
Kerala Congress (Mani) is the third-largest party in the United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition in Kerala. After Mani passed away, there has been a sustained power struggle between senior party leader PJ Joseph and Jose K Mani, the son of KM Mani for the position of party Chairman. Joseph did not allot the party symbol to Jose Tom Pulikunnel, the UDF candidate as he is perceived to be close to Jose K Mani. Therefore, Pulikunnel had to opt for the ‘pineapple’ symbol.
Local Nationalist Congress Party leader and film producer Mani C Kappen is the candidate of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). He is hoping to take advantage of the tussle between Joseph and Jose K Mani. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has, however, nominated N Hari who contested for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2016 Assembly elections as well. He is the BJP’s Kottayam district president. The UDF campaign is being led by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Present Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan though, is yet to campaign in the constituency.
According to Chandy, every good scheme introduced by KM Mani as a minister had been removed by the Left government in the state. He expressed his confidence on the victory of the UDF candidate in Pala. On the other hand, veteran Left leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan remarked that the people of Pala had been seeking a change for several years. The Left front had suffered a setback in the 2019 General Elections, winning only one out of the 20 seats in the state. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi was one of the key UDF leaders to win a seat in Kerala.