Kerala: Puthuppally Sees High Turnout; LDF Banks on Development, UDF on Oommen Chandy's Image
Voters wait in a queue to cast their votes during the by-elections to Puthuppally assembly seat, in Kerala's Kottayam district, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI
The Puthuppally Assembly segment in Kottayam district of Kerala saw brisk polling with the Election Commission announcing 71% turnout till 5 p.m. The election was necessitated by the death of former chief minister Oommen Chandy. The two major coalitions, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) are fighting a battle of prestige in the seat in which 1.76 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.
Former CM, Oommen Chandy, had represented the constituency consecutively since 1970, in the 4th Assembly election in the state. Banking on a ‘sympathy wave’, the Congress has fielded Chandy Oommen, the son of the late CM. The LDF has fielded Jaick C Thomas, of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], for the third time.
The LDF has raised the development agenda, while the Congress is relying on its traditional vote bank. The two fronts resorted to a high-pitch campaign ahead of the election. The LDF is hoping to improve its vote share as compared to the 2021 elections, where the victory margin of Oommen Chandy was reduced to just 9,084 from around 27,000 in 2016.
The BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and three other candidates are also in the fray, though the contest is primarily between LDF and UDF.
‘DEVELOPMENT VS SYMPATHY’
Puthuppally is a traditional stronghold of the Congress. It has eight village panchayats and 182 booths. Of the eight panchayats, six panchayats are ruled by LDF after the 2020 local body elections.
The LDF began their campaign pitching the development agenda, citing the poor infrastructure in schools, government buildings and roads across the constituency. The LDF candidate even invited the UDF candidate to hold a discussion on the lack of developmental activities in the constituency, despite Oommen Chandy being the Chief minister on two different occasions.
'A Vote for Development' is the primary campaign taken forward by the LDF. Jaick, the LDF candidate, claimed that the constituency was getting ready for a change.
Meanwhile, the UDF is relying heavily on the image of Oommen Chandy for yet another victory and to retain the seat. The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) came under strong criticism when its president K Sudhakaran announced that the late chief minister's family would decide the candidate, only to retract it later.
The vote share of BJP had reduced in the 2021 Assembly election in comparison with the previous election.
‘MEDIA ONE’ ACCUSED OF TELECASTING FAKE NEWS
On September 3, the final day of the open campaign, Media One, a Malayalam channel, had published a video and newscard with colours of the ribbons sported by CPI(M) and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) members changed from red to saffron. The newscard claimed that CPI(M) activists sang a song in a tune used by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
As no other channel published any such news, Media One faced criticism for “spreading fake news.”
Screen grabs of video telecast by 24 News and Media One channels.
Media One later took down the video and newscard after issuing a clarification.Most LDF social media handles pointed out the change in colour and the wrong information of using a RSS song by the supporters of Jaick C Thomas.
"The final campaign video was telecast on TV, YouTube and Facebook. But only in Facebook the title claiming that a song in the tune of an RSS song was inadvertently included. It was removed after it was brought to our notice", a statement by the channel said.
The statement also claimed that the change of colour of the ribbons were due to a technical issue with the camera. But, several LDF leaders accused the channel of propagating fake news to malign the front and the CPI(M). P A Mohammed Riyas accused the channel of working continuously against the LDF.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.