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    It''s even-steven for rivals CPI-M, Congress

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    Thiruvananthapuram: It''s even-steven for traditional political rivals CPI-M and Congress, which won 2 seats each in the Kerala Assembly bypolls on Thursday, while IUML retained its Manjeswaram seat.

    The ruling CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front wrested the Vatiyoorkavu and Konni seats from the Congress, but lost stronghold Aroor for the first time in half a century.

    And on expected lines, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) retained Ernakulam and its ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) retained Manjesweram.

    In the 140-member Kerala Assembly, the CPI-M-led LDF has 93 seats, the Congress-led UDF has 45 seats and the BJP has 1 seats.

    The outcome is a shocker for the Congress as it lost two prestigious seats. In Vatiyoorkavu, Thiruvananthapuram mayor V.K.Prasanth of the CPI-M, trounced former Congress legislator K.Mohankumar by a margin of 14,465 votes. And in Konni, CPI-M''s K.U.Jenish defeated P.Mohanraj by 9,953 votes.

    The Congress'' lose in Konni is being blamed on party MP Adoor Prakash who has represented the seat since 1996. The party had shot down Adoor Prakash''s candidate to field P.Mohanraj instead. However, the strongman ensured he didn''t win either.

    The silver lining for the Congress is its candidate Shanimol Usman wresting Aroor Assembly constituency from the CPI-M after almost five decades. Aroor was represented by CPI-M''s A.M. Ariff since 2001. In her first election win, Usman defeated Manu C. Pulickal by 2,079 votes to become the first woman MLA from the UDF in the present Assembly.

    In Ernakulam, where a heavy downpour on polling day resulted in a low voter turnout of just 57.90 per cent, Congress'' T.J. Vinod won but with a reduced margin of 3,750 votes.

    Vinod later said: "I dedicate this victory to my voters. The margin has to do with the heavy rains on the polling day."

    UDF''s second biggest ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) candidate M.C.Kamurdeen won the Manjeswaram Assembly constituency by 7,923 votes.

    This is an improvement on IUML''s 2016 performance. Its Abdul Razack had defeated his nearest BJP rival K.Surendran by a slender margin of 89 votes. The bypoll was necessitated by Razack''s death last year.

    The BJP has no reason for cheer in Kerala. Not only did it lose its number two position in Vatiyoorkavu, but in Thiruvananthapuram its candidate and district President S.Suresh garnered a mere 27,453 votes down from 43,700 that Kummanem Rajasekheran got in 2016.

    Thanking the voters, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who led the Left campaign, said they have rejected the politics of hate this time too.

    Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who led the UDF campaign, said the results are a proof that the voters have rejected both the Left and the BJP.

    "The victory at Aroor for the Congress comes after almost five decades. The BJP has been routed and we, the UDF, will introspect on what happened in Vatiyoorkavu and Konni," said Chennithala.

    State Congress President Mullapally Ramachandran said the results clearly show there was a tacit understanding between the Left and the BJP.

    "If not for that, how do you explain the BJP candidate getting less than 15,000 votes as compared to the last polls in Vatiyoorkavu. And where have those votes gone? The Congress will sit down on October 27 to discuss where we lost out," said Ramachandran.

    State CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the political situation that prevailed during the Lok Sabha polls has changed to one favouring the Left.

    "The RSS has no scope and space in Kerala politics. If you compare the bypoll results to the Lok Sabha poll results, we have come back strongly in all the five constituencies. We will examine what happened in Aroor," said Balakrishnan

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