Ponnani Apr 2: Though traditionally a fortress for the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), vis-à-vis the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), it has been losing its grip over the Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency in Malappuram district of Kerala, thanks to the slow-but-steady domination being asserted by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) since 2009 elections to the Lok Sabha .
A new strategy by the LDF in fielding independent candidates with its support has worked well in bringing down the victory margin of the UDF-IUML candidate over these years. The LDF has also been tightening its grip on the seven Assembly constituencies in the constituency over these years. The Lok Sabha constituency comprises seven assembly constituencies – Thirurangadi, Tanur, Tirur, Ponnani, Thavanoor, Kottakkal (all in Malappuram district) and Thrithala (in Palakkad district). While the UDF represent four constituencies, MLAs of Tanur, Ponnani and Thavanoor are with LDF.
The declining victory margin of the once-dominant IUML in the Lok Sabha constituency has been a matter of concern for the UDF in the constituency, once a sure bet of the IUML. A Muslim-predominant constituency, Ponnani has always been held by the IUML, an ally of the UDF. The IUML candidate had represented the constituency in the Parliament since 1977. However, there has been a considerable dip in the victory margin of the IUML candidate in the last two elections to the Lok Sabha.
The majority of the IUML veteran, the late E Ahamed was over a lakh votes in the 2004 election to the Lok Sabha. The vote percentage he garnered stood at 48.6 percent against a 34.4 percent secured by the LDF opponent, P P Suneer of the CPI, the ally of the LDF. The BJP had a vote percentage of 9.8 in the constituency where there is a good number of Hindu votes.
But, the majority of the IUML nominee, this time the league leader E T Muhammed Basheer shrunk to five-digit in 2009, when the LDF opted to field an independent candidate, Dr Hussain Randathani. The margin of victory was 82,684 though, the vote percentage bagged by Mr Basheer increased to cross the half-way mark and stood at 50.21 percent. The LDF independent also increased its vote share to take it to 39.45 percent. But the BJP lost its vote share by over two percent with iits candidate K Janachandran securing only 7.51 percent of votes polled.
And, the 2014 election to the Lok Sabha witnessed a further dip in the majority of the IUML nominee, Mr Basheer who had contested the seat for the second time. Mr Basheer secured 378,503 votes and the vote share dipped drastically to 43.43 percent, the lowest in the new millennium. And the margin of victory stood at a lowest ever by the UDF, just 25,410. Once again an independent for the LDF, V Abdu Rahiman secured 3,53,093 votes, which showed an increase in the vote percentage to 40.51 percent, the highest ever by the LDF in the last three elections to the Lok Sabha.
Bagging 75,212 votes, the BJP candidate K Narayanan secured 8.63 percent of votes polled. However, the sentiments of the Hindu votes, decisive of making a swing, could go against the LDF, thanks to its anti-religious stance taken in the women entry in Sabarimala. The BJP is also likely to cash in more votes this time by virtue of a consolidation of the Nair Service Society votes and a pro-Hindu attitude.
The allegations of land encroachment for the controversial water theme park and the illegal check dam at Cheenakannippalli near Kakkadampoyil has been used as a political weapon by the UDF against the LDF nominee, P V Anwar, MLA (representing Nilambur) There has been allegations of enormous wealth made by the UDF nominee Muhammed Basheer has also been in the air. However, the battle has grown beyond these personal issues and has reached its peak with a broader canvass with national perspectives.
No matter the majority has been shrinking over the past few elections, the UDF camp is overwhelmingly enthusiastic a lot and confident of sending Mr Basheer to the Lok Sabha for a third time. On the other hand, the LDF nominee is sweating it out to vindicate his candidature in the constituency. UNI