Kerala bypoll campaign turns ugly as Puthuppally candidates’ women relatives face vile cyber attacks

After Congress candidate Chandy Oommen's sister Achu Oommen, CPI(M) candidate Jaick Thomas' wife Geethu complained against cyber attack.

BySouth First Desk

Published Sep 02, 2023 | 8:24 PM Updated Sep 02, 2023 | 8:43 PM

Both Achu and Geethu have approached the police against the cyber attack. (Creative Commons)

This is one model of political evolution — or the lack of it — that doesn’t augur well for Kerala.

Even as the public campaign for the Puthuppally bypoll draws to a close, cadres of both the Congress and the CPI(M) seem to be targeting women members of the families of rival candidates — especially on social media.

In the latest development, CPI(M) candidate Jaick C Thomas’ wife Geethu complained to the district police chief, alleging that certain social-media handles have been targeting her for campaigning for her husband.

The social media handles have made videos alleging that the Left candidate was trying to garner votes using his pregnant wife.

“Some social media handles have created videos with slanderous comments. I have lodged a complaint today,” Geethu told PTI.

Also read: Puthuppally lags in development, says CPI(M) candidate Jaick

Achu Oommen also targeted

Geethu was not the only one to complain. On 28 August, Congress candidate Chandy Oommen’s sister Achu Oommen approached the police against alleged cyber slurs hurled against her.

As the campaign intensified in Puthuppally for the 5 September bypoll, the candidates’ and their close relatives’ personal lives — as well as the nominees’ assets — became topics of discussion in some online groups.

Left candidate Thomas earlier criticised the “cyber attacks” against Achu and said personal insults and humiliation against anyone could not be accepted.

“Whether it was against the former CM’s daughter or the present CM’s daughter, it cannot be accepted,” he said, in an apparent reference to the attacks against Veena Vijayan, daughter of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“I’m afraid I have to disagree with character assassination and cyberattacks. But such attacks are happening offline and online. Cadres of different parties are engaging in it,” he told South First in an exclusive interview.

His rival, Chandy Oommen, shared the same sentiment. “They targeted my younger sister, and she filed complaints with the police and the women’s commission. Let’s see how the system handles the complaints. Unfortunately, they drag my family into unnecessary controversies. They are not in politics,” he told South First.

Meanwhile, a section of social media users, in apparent mock justification, pointed at the attack on Achu Oommen even as Geethu complained.

The bypoll was necessitated in Puthuppally following the 18 July death of former chief minister Oommen Chandy, who represented the constituency for 53 continuous years.

Also read: ‘Puthuppally bypoll a dress rehearsal for Lok Sabha polls’

Similar incident, but elsewhere

Incidentally, during the run-up to the Thrikkakara bypoll in May 2022, a sleaze video was circulated against LDF’s cardiologist-turned-candidate Dr Jo Joseph. His opponent, Uma Thomas, too, was targeted.

On 5 April 2011, former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, too, stirred a controversy when he said, “You know her better. You may investigate in which way she is able,” about his rival candidate Lathika Subhash in Malampuzha.

He was responding to a question during a media interaction on whether he was forced to campaign in the constituency for four days because his opponent was an able candidate.

(With PTI inputs)