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How CPM Put 5-Point Plan in Motion to Retain Chengannur in Kerala

Located in Alappuzha district, the bye-election was necessitated after MLA KK Ramachandran Nair of CPM died earlier this year in January. The seat was considered a bastion of Congress as it elected its members from 1991 until CPM fought its way in and won in 2016.

Chandrakanth Viswanath | News18

Updated:June 1, 2018, 8:42 AM IST
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How CPM Put 5-Point Plan in Motion to Retain Chengannur in Kerala
Representative image of the CPI(M) logo. (Reuters)
Thiruvananthapuram: The CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) won the crucial Chengannur by-poll by a handsome 20,956 vote margin, a record for the constituency. Saji Cherian clocked in 67,303 votes as compared to Congress’ D Vijayakumar (46,347) and PS Sreedharan Pillai of BJP (35,270).

Located in Alappuzha district, the bye-election was necessitated after MLA KK Ramachandran Nair of CPM died earlier this year in January. The seat was considered a bastion of Congress as it elected its members from 1991 until CPM fought its way in and won in 2016.

In 2016, Congress’s PC Vishnunath was defeated by Ramachandran Nair by 7983 votes. BJP’s candidate PS Sreedharan Pillai came in a close third with 29.33 percent behind Vishnunath's 30.85 percent.

Here are the factors that have worked in favour of the CPM:

Candidate

Saji Cherian, a shrewd political leader with astute organisational skills, was undoubtedly the strongest candidate CPM could present. He is the district secretary of the party which sent eight out of nine candidates to State Assembly in 2016. He returned to the seat, his native, after biting the dust 12 years ago in his first bout against Vishnunath. He carries the ability to reach out to a large section outside the party with his engagement with Pain and Palliative care unit for a few years.

Christian Consolidation

A majority of Christians from various section in the constituency stood behind Congress even during its worst tests. The total of Orthodox, Marthoma, Pentecostal churches would come around 26 percent voters. Curiously, all the sections with sizeable votes were protestant groups as the politically powerful Catholic Church had made a war cry against the Government for its liquor policy. Saji, who belongs to a family of Church of South India and had relatives in the Orthodox Church, could easily cut a chord with the community. This helped him to win 67, 303 out of the 1,51,997 votes. This was 14,427 more than the last winner. The presence of former Congress MLA Sobhana George as a strong LDF campaigner also helped it in the end.

Well-oiled CPM machinery

CPM won the seat with authority as it had a lead in all segments — the ten panchayats and one Municipality. It could snatch two Congress stronghold and one BJP fort. Each segment was divided into two areas and each area was under a state committee member. Squads working under the area committee member from Alappuzha and neighbouring Pathanamthitta would visit houses more than five times over the period of the campaign. It helped present Saji as an able administrator helped much to erase his negative image.

Political Positioning by CPM

The strong anti-Hindutva stand taken by CPM lured the Christian and Muslim votes. The party managed this cleverly by stabilising its traditional base comprising of Ezhava and Dalit votes. The stand taken by the NSS leadership, in favour of the state government, had an influence on a section of Nair Community which comes around 24 percent of the electorate. Along with this, the stand from Ezhava leader Vellappally Natesan turned favourable for Saji, an old friend of the leader.

Image of the Government and its Merits

Cancelling out the negative campaign in the media, the party concentrated on the achievements of the government during the campaign. Meetings of various sections of the society, who are beneficiaries of the programs and schemes of the government, were held in order to cement the votes from widows and disabled individuals.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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