Puthuppally by-election: Seven candidates, including three independents, to battle it out on 5 September

Chandy Oommen is the Congress candidate and DYFI leader Jaick C Thomas is representing the ruling CPI(M). BJP has fielded G Lijin Lal.

BySouth First Desk

Published Aug 22, 2023 | 2:37 PM Updated Aug 22, 2023 | 2:37 PM

Puthuppally by-election candidates

A total of seven contestants are in the fray for the 5 September by-election in the Puthuppally Assembly constituency in Kerala, which is now unrepresented in the state Assembly following the demise of the former chief minister Oommen Chandy.

While Oommen Chandy’s son Chandy Oommen is the Congress-led UDF’s candidate and DYFI leader Jaick C Thomas is representing the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, the BJP has fielded its Kottayam district president G Lijin Lal.

Related: BJP’s limited ambitions; LDF takes on Oommen Chandy’s ‘divine aura’

Other candidates

The remaining four candidates include Luke Thomas from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and three independent contestants, according to a statement issued by the district administration.

The list of candidates.

The independent candidates are PK Devadas, Shaji, and Santhosh Pulickal, according the statement.

The candidates were finalised after the deadline for withdrawing the nomination papers ended on Monday, 21 August and none of the candidates backed out, the statement said.

It also said that the four recognised parties were given their symbols and the independent candidates were allotted symbols by the Election Officer.

Chandy had won from the constituency 12 times in a row since 1970. His death in July left the seat vacant, due to which the by-election is being held, and for which the Congress is fielding the popular leader’s son.

Chandy Oommen had remained in his father’s shadows but for occasional appearances — like his active participation in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. As a person, Chandy Oommen is less known outside Puthuppally.

His rival, Thomas, however, is the better-known of the two. He has been the face of CPI(M) in newsroom debates and had twice taken on Oommen Chandy, who in life, was the undisputed and invincible leader of Puthuppally for over half a century.

Related: CPI(M) candidate bats for segment’s lone saint amid clamour 

The contest

However, Thomas now has the unenviable task of taking on Chandy Oommen, the might of the UDF, and Oommen Chandy’s aura in the 5 September by-election.

He had taken on Oommen Chandy in his bastion in the 2016 and 2021 Assembly polls.

The BJP whose presence is minimal in the constituency goes into the by-election contest with the limited ambition that its candidate — young district-level leader Lijin Lal — will recover some of its “lost votes” in the constituency.

The BJP is also harping on the “Lord Ganesha is a myth” controversy sparked by state Assembly speaker AN Shamseer in a bid to polarise the Hindu vote in Christian-dominated Puthuppally.

However, whichever way one looks at it, the BJP will remain a sideshow in a contest between Chandy Oommen and Thomas, who was snapping at the heels of the late ex-chief minister, having reduced his winning margin to under 10,000 votes in the 2021 Assembly election.

Meanwhile, UDF candidate Chandy Oommen has rejected the LDF camp’s allegations that there has been a lack of development in the Puthuppally constituency represented by his father for over five decades.

He also questioned the LDF’s claims that it has pushed development in the state during its seven-year rule.

“There is no reply to my query on whether they are ready for an assessment of the governance of the ruling front,” Chandy Oommen told the media.

Ready to debate

Responding to that, LDF candidate Jaick Thomas said he was ready to debate the issue of development carried out in the state by the Left government in the last seven years vis-a-vis the development in the constituency over the years.

“We can assess everything. We can assess the development carried out in the state in the last seven years and the development that happened in Puthuppally during the same time,” he said.

“When we dared the UDF to a debate on development, their unfortunate reply was whether there is a village office, krishi bhavan, or an SBI branch in the village. We should be ready for a debate on development,” he said.

Thomas confidently said he was ready to debate and discuss everything, and the UDF candidate could decide the date, time and venue.

The invitation for the debate was later dsmissed by the Congress-led UDF.

Related: Oommen Chandy’s legacy, and the new political possibilities in Kerala

Holiday declared

In view of the by-election, 5 September has been declared a holiday for all government, semi-government, educational and commercial institutions in the constituency.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the mock polls to test the voting machines and the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) has been conducted, the district administration said.

The mock poll was conducted in the presence of representatives of the contesting political parties at the APJ Abdul Kalam Auditorium in Kottayam, it said, adding that 20 voting machines and VVPATs were kept ready for the exercise.

The district administration has also released a list of election observers and their phone numbers, for the general public to make complaints, if any, regarding the by-election.

Votes polled in the 5 September by-election will be counted on 8 September.

(With PTI inputs)