THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, April 18: The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) retained the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency on Monday, with Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) national general secretary and former minister P K Kunhalikutty winning the April 12 by-election by a thumping margin of 171,023 votes.
Kunhalikutty polled 515,330 votes while CPM’s M B Faisal, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate, polled 344,307 votes.
The BJP’s N Sreeprakash finished third with 65,675 votes. A total of 4,098 None Of The Above (NOTA) votes were polled in the by-election that was announced following the death of IUML MP E Ahamed.
The IUML’s victory margin has fallen since 2014 – Ahamed defeated CPM’s P K Sainaba by 194,739 votes – but Kunhalikutty fared better in terms of the number of votes; 515,330 against Ahamed’s 437,723.
Amid celebrations by party activists in the district, a stronghold of the IUML, Kunhalikutty called it a “grand performance” by the opposition UDF.
He noted that the modest returns for the BJP – only 970 votes more than what Sreeprakash himself polled in 2014 – proved that the party had no role to play in the state’s politics.
“This is a huge setback for the BJP; the results prove that it has no relevance in Kerala. There was no communal polarisation in the constituency, the fight was entirely political,” Kunhalikutty said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called the ruling CPM’s performance an improvement on the 2014 results. He dismissed analyses that dubbed the result as a report on the CPM-led LDF government’s 10 months in office.
“Compared to the previous Lok Sabha election, the UDF has not managed the kind of increase in vote shares that the LDF has,” Vijayan said in New Delhi.
Kunhalikutty maintained steady leads in all the seven Assembly constituencies in Malappuram right from the initial stages of counting and barring Perinthalmanna, where his lead was below 10,000 votes, sustained huge leads at the end of it.
CPM’s Faisal was expected to pose stiffer resistance to Kunhalikutty; the CPM has attributed the IUML’s big win also to the absence of the Social Democratic Party of India and the Welfare Party of India in the election.
The ruling party stated that the absence of the two parties – their candidates together polled over 77,000 votes in 2014 – meant an easier outing for the IUML.
The opposition Congress is eyeing gains from the IUML’s performance and has called the result a progress report on the Left government in the state and the BJP-led government at the Centre.
“Kerala has, again, realised that only the UPA can halt the run of the Sangh Parivar,” Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said.