Puthuppally bypoll: LDF nominates Jaick Thomas to take on Chandy Oommen; will Anil Antony pad up for BJP?

Jaick C Thomas lost the 2021 Puthuppally Assembly election to the late Oommen Chandy by a margin of 9,044 votes.

BySouth First Desk

Published Aug 12, 2023 | 5:45 PMUpdatedAug 12, 2023 | 5:45 PM

Jaick C Thomas Puthuppally

All eyes are on the BJP after the ruling LDF and the Opposition UDF announced their candidates for the 5 September by-election in Puthuppally in Kerala’s Kottayam district. The question on everyone’s mind: Will the saffron party field Anil Antony, son of Congress veteran AK Antony, in the election?

Meanwhile, as widely anticipated, the CPI(M)-led LDF nominated the party’s district committee member and youth leader Jaick C Thomas to take on Chandy Oommen of the UDF.

The bypoll in Puthuppally was necessitated following the death of the MLA and former chief minister Oommen Chandy on 18 July. Oommen Chandy had been battling cancer for some years.

CPI(M) state secretary M Govindan announced Jaick Thomas’s candidature at a news conference in Kottayam on Saturday, 12 August.

The DYFI leader is contesting from Puthuppally for the third consecutive time. In 2021, he reduced Oommen Chandy’s victory margin to 9,044 from more than 27,000 votes in 2016.

The CPI(M) fielded Thomas in 2016, hoping to wrest Puthuppally back from Oommen Chandy and the Congress. Much in the way the latter was a students’ and youth leader when he knocked out EM George and snatched Puthuppally away from the CPI(M) by a margin of 7,288 votes back in 1970.

Ever since his first electoral win in 1970, Oommen Chandy had been representing Puthuppally till his death. He was Puthuppally’s favourite Kunjunju, as the people there used to call him.


Related: By-election for Oommen Chandy’s Assembly seat to be held on 5 Sept

Chandy Oommen for UDF

The Congress-led UDF did not hesitate to field Chandy Oommen, son of Oommen Chandy, as its candidate in Puthuppally. It is hoping to ride on Oommen Chandy’s huge popularity and a sympathy wave following his death to register a thumping victory.

Chandy Oommen is a national-level office-bearer of the Indian Youth Congress. A graduate of St Stephen’s College in Delhi, he was also part of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.

During the last journey and funeral, Chandy Oommen sat close to his father’s body for one night and two days and made an emotional speech at the end.

Chandy Oommen’s statement requesting the police to drop the charges against the actor Vinayakan — who had made disparaging comments about the late chief minister — also went down well with those who revere his father.

Oommen Chandy represented the Puthuppally constituency for five decades. He was elected to the Kerala Assembly from Puthupally in 1970, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021.

After his candidature was announced, Chandy Oommen visited and sought the blessings of veteran Congress leader and former defence minister AK Antony — a close friend of his father — at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram. Antony obliged.

Related: ‘Family member to replace Chandy as Puthuppally candidate’

Will BJP field Anil Antony?

Chandy Oommen visiting Antony did not go unnoticed, especially against the backdrop of speculation that the BJP might nominate his son Anil Antony in Puthuppally.

Anil Antony, who resigned from the Congress on 25 January, joined the BJP on 6 April. He has been specifically targeting Rahul Gandhi ever since joining the BJP. On 10 August, he demanded Gandhi apologise for his flying kiss gesture in the Lok Sabha.

The BJP has been trying different candidates in Puthuppally, but its vote share has not shown much improvement, except in 2016 when it crossed into double-digits to touch 11.93 percent. George Kurien was then the candidate. However, the BJP’s vote share slipped to 8.87 percent when the party fielded N Hari in 2021.

Meanwhile, Anil Antony told reporters on Friday, 11 August, that he was not seeking any posts. “The party will decide the candidate,” he said when asked about the possibility of contesting from Puthuppally.

The BJP national general secretary, however, added that he would campaign for the party’s candidate in Puthuppally. It has to be seen if AK Antony, too, would hit the campaign trail for the Congress in Puthuppally.

The BJP is likely to announce its candidate after a state committee meeting on Saturday.

By-election on 5 September

The election will be held on 5 September, and the results will be announced on 8 September.

Candidates are required to file nomination papers on or before 17 August. Nominations will be scrutinised on 18 August and the candidates can withdraw their applications till 21 August.

Including Puthuppally, by-elections will be held for seven constituencies on 5 September in Dhumri in Jharkhand, Bokanagar in Tripura, Dhanpur and Dhupguri in Bengal, Ghosi in Uttar Pradesh, and Bageshwar in Uttarakhand.

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

(With PTI inputs)