K S Sabarinathan of the Congress won the by-poll to the Aruvikkara Assembly constituency gaining 56, 448 votes, signaling an endorsement of Chandy’s UDF government and a split in the Opposition votes.
Sabarinathan won by a margin of 10, 128 votes, bagging 56, 448 votes against the 56, 797 votes his father G Karthikeyan had obtained in 2011. The UDF has once again reinforced its position with the by-polls assuming much significance due to many factors posing a win-or-die situation for the contesting parties. The most significant aspect of the Aruvikkara polls is the stunning performance of BJP with a fivefold increase in its vote share compared to what it received in the 2011 Assembly polls. The victory is attributed mainly to the veteran leader O Rajagopal, the lucky face of the saffron regime in Kerala. Rajagopal got 34, 145 votes. The party has managed to cut into the Hindu votes in the constituency and have literally decimated the Left Front ensuring a smooth win for the Congress-led UDF. Besides the backing from the Centre, the party has been able to gain the votes of the people who have been disappointed with the changing governments of both the fronts. The victory in the by-polls is likely to benefit the BJP in the election to the local self governing institutes and the upcoming Assembly polls as well. CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, before the polls, had hinted that anti-incumbency votes were split. He said that the UDF won the by-elections ‘with a combination of power, money and by supplying liquor in the constituency’.
The Aruvikkara poll results are indeed a big relief for Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, whose government has been stained by many scandals during its tenure. Many corruption allegations, chances of shift of allegiance to the UDF factions, and other controversies including the bar bribe scam have all tarnished the Chandy government. He has said, right from the beginning, that the by-polls would be a referendum on his four-year old government. With the stunning victory, Chandy has emerged stronger within the party and the ruling coalition UDF. If the UDF could manage a decent performance in the looming local body polls, he would again lead the UDF in the next Assembly polls, which is just eight months away. While the UDF brought in its senior leader A K Antony for the election campaign, the Left projected veteran V S Achuthanandhan, brushing aside all the internal differences. With total uncertainty on, neither the experts nor the media could predict the victory of any of the candidates.
The BJP has sure benefitted from the CPI-M-Congress row. The election results, however, do not erase the stains on the ruling party in the state. It should be noted that while 56, 448 votes were in the favour of the government, 80, 465 votes were cast against it. The government should strive to find a feasible solution to the matters concerning the people and curb corruption instead of polishing and highlighting their image. The CPI-M should be analyzing the possibilities of the state tagging along the path of Bengal. The party would soon lose its significance if it fail to re-examine their current position and analyse what went wrong.