Mani C Kappan has rewritten an over half a century history of Pala, wresting it from Kerala Congress(Mani), after party supremo late KM Mani reigned over the constituency for 54 years.
The victory comes at the worst of times for the LDF, shattered by the 19-1 defeat in the recently-held Lok Sabha elections. The Pala win is booster providing fuel enough to face the five byelections coming up next month.
Kappan of NCP trounced UDF counterpart Jose Tom by a margin of 2,943 votes. The BJP came a poor third. Kappan maintained his lead in all rounds and at one stage crossed the 4,000-mark. He led in Pala municipality and nine panchayats, leaving just three to Jose Tom.
He polled 54,137 votes (42.31 per cent) against Jose Tom 51,194 (40.01) and N Hari of BJP 18,044 (14.1). In the Lok Sabha elections in April, the Pala segment of the Kottayam seat gave the UDF candidate a lead of 33,472 votes.
For Kappan, it was a major win as he had unsuccessfully contested against Mani thrice but succeeded in bringing down the majority to a shade over 4,700 votes in the last 2016 elections in which Mani was under the shade of a bar bribery controversy.
The UDF can find solace attributing the defeat to the infighting in the Kerala Congress (Mani), right from the time the elections were announced. That explains why UDF convenor Benny Behnan said the fight should be between fronts and not parties within the front.
Party working president PJ Joseph had ensured that the UDF candidate was not allotted the party symbol, forcing Jose Tom to contest as an Independent. Jose K Mani's attempt to assert himself as the party leader has got a big beating and he cannot expect to get the same regard from the UDF as his father did.
For the Congress that controlled the election machinery in Pala, the defeat has come as a shocker and it could fumble in next month's by-elections.
Sensing a win in Pala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced when the election was declared that it would be a vote on his Government's performance. Whether there was any reason for the voters of Pala to vote for LDF's Kappan is an altogether different issue. But every vote for Kappan will now be projected as one based on the Government performance and turn heady for the LDF.
A loss in Pala could have meant a total rout in the coming bypolls for UDF. There is reason now for hope for LDF and a repeat performance in at least three of the five constituencies.
As for BJP, which has been struggling to gain foothold in the State and even banked on Sabarimala, it still finds it hard to remove the tag of vote trader in the State. If it got 24,821 votes in the 2016 elections and saw it go up to 26,533 in the Lok Sabha elections, fall now to 18,044 will make its leadership helpless to give any clear answer. This may mean more time for BJP to find some space in Kerala's electoral politics.