Pala: Whoever wins the upcoming Pala by-election will go into the record books as this would be the first time since 1965 that there will be a new winner and hence all the three political fronts are leaving nothing to chance.
The by-election will take place on September 23. It was necessitated by the death of Kerala Congress-Mani founder K. M. Mani in April, who represented the constituency since 1967.
Mani first won in 1965, but since no political front could cobble up a majority no government assumed office and the state was under President's rule till fresh elections were held in 1967.
Even before the list of candidates was announced, trouble erupted in the Kerala Congress-Mani, the third largest party in the Congress-led United Democratic Front. After the death of Mani, a power struggle between veteran party legislator P.J. Joseph -- the working chairman of the party -- and Mani's son Jose K. Mani for the post of party Chairman led to total confusion.
In the end, Joseph had the last laugh. Despite numerous interventions from the top UDF leadership, Joseph put his foot down and did not allot the two leaves party symbol of the party to its candidate Jose Tom Pulikunnel, one of the closest aides of Mani, who then had to opt for the 'pineapple' as his symbol.
Taking on Pulikunnel and hoping to exploit the differences between Joseph and Jose K. Mani, is local NCP leader and film producer Mani C. Kappen, contesting for the fourth consecutive term, who is aligned with the Left. The BJP-led NDA's candidate is Kottayam district BJP president N. Hari, who was the BJP candidate in the 2016 assembly polls too.
Leading the UDF campaign is two time former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who said all issues have blown over and the UDF is working unitedly.
"The Left has nothing to campaign on its good governance as every scheme that Mani in his long years as minister gave to the state has been pulled out by this government. All they are saying is the difference of opinion in the UDF. We will have an easy victory," said Chandy.
But the Left is leaving nothing to chance as the recent Lok Sabha elections saw the Left getting badly mauled by the UDF, when it could win just one seat out of the 20 seats in Kerala.
"People in Pala are seeking a change as all along for several years, it was the 'two leaves'. The response to our candidate has been good," said CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan after campaigning in the constituency.
The Left is hopeful as Kappen has been able to bring down the lead that Mani had to as low as 4,703 votes.
While the top UDF leadership is busy in the constituency, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is yet to reach there while senior BJP leaders have started to arrive and more national leaders are expected to arrive soon.