Puthuppally by-election: Will sons of old friends AK Antony and Oommen Chandy be pitted against each other?

BJP prefers Anil Antony as its candidate since he could mount pressure on his father; CPI(M) likely to go with Jaick C Thomas.

ByK A Shaji

Published Aug 09, 2023 | 3:33 PMUpdatedAug 09, 2023 | 4:04 PM

Chandy Oommen

The state was observing Maundy Thursday when Anil Antony joined the BJP, hurting his father, veteran Congress leader AK Antony.

While the Kerala unit of the Congress likened Anil’s “betrayal” to that of Judas, senior leader and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh drew attention to “A Tale of Two Sons of Two CMs from the Same State”.

“One is a Bharat Yatri, walking tirelessly, mostly barefoot to unite our nation in the #BharatJodoYatra.” Ramesh tweeted. “The other is revelling in his day in the sun today, having ignored his duties to the party and yatra.”

The comparison was between Chandy Oommen, son of the late Oommen Chandy, and Anil Antony, AK Antony’s son, who differed with the Congress over the BBC documentary on Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots, and resigned from the party to join the BJP.

With Puthuppally, the epicentre of Oommen Chandy’s political activities, preparing for a by-election, the comparison between the sons have become even more relevant in political Kerala.

Related: By-election for Puthuppally Assembly seat to be held on 5 Sept

The Congress candidate

A few hours after the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the date for the bypoll on 8 August, the Congress nominated Chandy Oommen as its candidate in Puthuppally. It is the constituency his father had represented continuously for 53 years, till his death on 18 July.

Chandy Oommen

Chandy Oommen

Chandy Oommen was the natural and unanimous choice for the Congress. A law graduate who studied at the prestigious St Stephen’s College in Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Chandy Oommen has inherited several of his father’s qualities, especially the ability to reach out to the masses.

“It is not another son raised in the party. Even when Oommen Chandy was alive, Chandy Oommen was active in party affairs. He could not secure any key position within the party largely because of his father, who did nothing for the family,” senior Congress leader and former minister KC Joseph told South First.

“We preferred Chandy Oommen as Puthuppally candidate as he upholds several values his father had cherished. He is humane and approachable,” he added.

After Oommen Chandy: His legacy, and the new political possibilities in Kerala

To highlight the Left “misrule”

KC Joseph and senior party MLA Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan have already emerged as chief campaign managers of the Congress in Puthuppally, where the grand old party has the early bird advantage.


Election to be held on 5 September.

KPCC president K Sudhakaran told South First that the Congress was fighting the Puthuppally contest politically by highlighting the “misrule” in the state under Pinarayi Vijayan.

The by-election would be a referendum on the state government, he said. In the meantime, he said the emotional bonding between Oommen Chandy and Puthuppally would be reflected in the election.

While the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF and the BJP are yet to announce their candidates for the 5 September by-election, BJP insiders confirmed to South First that Anil Antony might be fielded in Puthuppally.

If Anil is fielded, it will lead to more comparisons between the “two sons of two CMs”.

Also read: LDF, UDF bury differences to pass resolution against UCC

Contest between “sons of CMs” on the cards

Anil K Antony with BJP national president JP Nadda on Thursday. Union Minister of State for Foreign Affairs V Muraleedharan looks on. (Twitter/Anil K Antony)

If Anil Antony enters the fray, the contest would draw national attention as the sons of two former Congress chief ministers would be locking horns in a direct electoral battle. The BJP feels it can mount political pressure on AK Antony and his supporters in the Congress by fielding Anil.

Antony senior will have to hard time campaigning for the son of a party colleague while opposing his own son.

The state BJP leadership has indicated its preference — Anil Antony as the candidate — to the national leadership. Puthuppally is not a stronghold of the BJP.  It bagged just 11,694 votes in the previous Assembly election,

However, the BJP would be eyeing a significant chunk of Christian votes in Puthuppally with Anil Antony as its candidate.

Also read: Anil Antony gets BJP national secretary post

The probable CPI(M) candidate

Jaick C Thomas. (Facebook)

Young CPI(M) leader Jaick C Thomas, who reduced the majority of Oommen Chandy to an all-time low of 9,044 in the 2021 Assembly election, is the likely LDF candidate.

Thomas, who hails from the same constituency, has links with voters from different walks of life.

“Don’t think that it will be a walkover for the Congress in Puthupally as portrayed by the bourgeois media. Puthuppally’s political profile has changed, and Oommen Chandy is no more here to upset the growth we have made over the years,” he told South First.

CPI(M) leaders said the party has been in power in six out of the eight grama panchayats in the constituency.

Puthuppally, Pampadi, Vakathanam, Akalakunnam, Manarcad, and Kooroppada grama panchayats are ruled by the CPI(M), while the Congress rules only Meenadam and Ayarkunnam.

After a gap of 24 years, the Puthuppally grama panchayat went to the CPI(M) in the previous local body election. For the first time since its creation, Manarcad grama panchayat was also taken over by the CPI(M).

Also read: Never said Lord Ganesha is a myth, says CPI(M) Kerala secretary

Bonding of Puthuppally with Chandy family

Radhakrishnan said the bond between the Chandy family and Puthuppally would translate into votes in favour of Chandy Oommen in the by-election.

Congress leader Tharoor and Oommen Chandy

Sashi Tharoor with veteran Congress leader Oommen Chandy and his family in October last year. (KB Jayachandran)

“Last time, the majority of Oommen Chandy was reduced because of the Left parties’ false, vindictive, and aggressive campaign projecting the solar scam. They even tried character assassination of Oommen Chandy. Despite his death, Oommen Chandy is still the emotion and identity of the constituency,” Radhakrishnan said.

There is no doubt that Chandy Oommen will win this time — and with a record margin, he added.

CPI(M) leader and Cooperation Minister VN Vasavan is leading the left’s campaign in Puthuppally.

“National and state-level policy matters and the Congress’s lukewarm approach to secular politics will be debated in the election,” he said.

With the LDF, UDF, and BJP ensuring high-voltage campaigns involving national leaders in Puthuppally, it would be a dress rehearsal for the fast-approaching Lok Sabha election.

“My candidature is indeed a huge challenge. I have to do justice to the rich legacy left behind by my father. There is widespread disenchantment with the second Pinarayi Vijayan government and its style of functioning. We will talk politics and win the election,” Chandy Oommen told South First.