Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 5 (PTI) Campaigning for the April 12 Malappuram Lok Sabha by-poll in Kerala has reached high pitch, where IUML candidate, a key partner in the Congress-led UDF Opposition, is fighting to retain the seat.
The seat fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister and IUML leader E Ahamed.
Former state minister and IUML General Secretary P K Kunhalikutty is pitted against LDF candidate M B Faisal(CPI-M) and NDA nominee N Sreeprakash of BJP.
Kunhalikutty seems to be on a firm footing in Malappuram, a Muslim dominated constituency and an IUML fortress that elected Ahmed with a margin of 1.94 lakh votes in 2015.
Political observers point out that only a political miracle could upset the apple cart of Kunhalikutty, who played a key role in the state UDF politics for the past more than 25 years and making an entry into national politics.
It is for the first time that Kunhalikutty, an MLA from Vengara assembly segment, is trying his luck in Lok Sabha polls.
Fully aware of the arduous task on hand, both the LDF candidate Faisal, who is the District president of DYFI, and Sreeprakash, BJPs district Vice President, is making unsparing efforts to re-write the electoral history of Malappuram, known as Manjeri before delimitation, that elected Ahmed seven times consecutively.
All the seven assembly segments coming under Malappuraam Los Sabha constituency were also won by IUML candidates in the polls in 2016.
Kunhalikutty, a member of state assembly since 1982, tasted electoral defeat only in 2006 assembly poll when he his name was dragged into the ‘ice cream parlour sex scandal’. A closure report in the case was filed in the trial court later by the Special Investigation Team.
The Supreme Court had in 2016 dismissed a petition from CPI(M) veteran V S Achuthanandan seeking a CBI probe into the scandal.
But, the unstinted support from the party leadership and rank and file helped Kunhalikutty to overcome the crisis.
UDF leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, are on the forefront of campaign trail in the constituency despite a sweltering summer heat.
Attacking the saffron party, Kunhalikuty seek votes to protect secularism and strengthen secular forces at the national level.
Faisal also attacks BJP and canvas votes for the protection of secularism and to isolate communal forces.
BJP highlights the achievements of BJP led NDA government at the Centre and the “anti-people” policies of Kerala government.
Small parties like SDPI and Welfare Party, that contested in 2015, had not fielded candidates this time. Both these parties got more than 50,00 votes in 2015 election.
Four independents candidates are also in the fray, besides the candidates of UDF, LDF and BJP.
Total electorate in the constituency is 13,12,2693, out of which 56,420 are women.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.