Kerala bypoll: Voters brave spells of rain in Puthuppally; late Oommen Chandy’s name figures in electoral rolls

As many as 1,76,417 voters are expected to cast their votes in 182 polling stations across the constituency till 6 pm.

BySouth First Desk

Published Sep 05, 2023 | 10:33 AM Updated Sep 05, 2023 | 9:22 PM

Long queues of voters were visible at several booths even before the polling commenced at 7 am.

The polling percentage exceeded 50 percent by 2 pm as voters braved intermittent rainfall at the Puthuppally Assembly constituency in Kerala’s Kottayam district on Tuesday, 5 September.

The constituency went to a bypoll following the 18 July demise of Oommen Chandy, who had been representing the segment for straight 53 years.

The polling commenced at 7 am with men, women, and youngsters queuing up early to cast their votes.

The Congress-led opposition UDF has fielded Oommen Chandy’s son, Chandy Oommen, which analysts view as an apparent strategy to capitalise on the sympathy wave following the former chief minister’s death.

The ruling Left front once again decided to go with DYFI leader Jaick C Thomas who had unsuccessfully contested the segment in 2016 and 2021 against the late Chandy.

At 2 pm, the voter turnout percentage was 51.34 percent with 90,572 voters — 45,639 men, 44,931 women and two transgenders — casting their votes, the district administration said. There are over 1.76 lakh registered voters in the constituency.

Earlier, the polling began on a brisk note with 12.3 percent of voters exercising their franchise till 9.30 am.

The ruling CPI(M) and the opposition Congress are locked in a fierce battle for the assembly seat representing this constituency that fell vacant after the demise of Congress stalwart and former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy.

If Thomas wins, the LDF will tough the magic 100 figure in the state Assembly.  who had unsuccessfully contested the segment in 2016 and 2021 against the late Chandy.

The BJP has fielded its Kottayam district president, G Lijinlal.

In the present composition of the 2021 Kerala Assembly with a total of 140 seats, the ruling LDF has 99 seats, UDF has 40 seats with one vacant Puthuppally Assembly seat.

Earlier, the polling began on a brisk note with 12.3 percent of voters exercising their franchise till 9.30 am.

LDF candidate Jaick C Thomas registered his vote at Kaniyamkunnu Lower Primary School at Manarcaud.

Polling was delayed at a few booths after the electronic voting machines developed technical errors. Polling commenced after they were rectified.

Related: Mudslinging, false propaganda mark Puthuppally bypoll campaign

The LDF’s Thomas said the polling marked a historic day for Puthuppally. He added that the election would be a litmus test of the LDF government’s performance.

Chandy Oommen said people would decide the fate of Puthuppally. Both candidates exuded confidence in winning the election. Speaking to South First earlier, Chandy Oommen called the election a “dress rehearsal” for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

While Chandy Oommen is contesting for the first time, Thomas is seeking the people’s mandate from Puthuppally for the third consecutive time. Thomas had in 2021 brought down Oommen Chandy’s victory margin to 9,044 from 27,092 votes in 2016.

The LDF has been highlighting the lack of development in Puthuppally, a segment Oommen Chandy represented for 53 consecutive years till his death on 18 July.

The UDF banked on Oommen Chandy’s legacy and his popularity. Fondly known as Kunjunju in Puthuppally, Oommen Chandy was dear to the voters, and several people still visit his crypt in the local church.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan led the LDF campaign while the UDF brought in several leaders, including former defence minister AK Antony and its flamboyant MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor.

As many as 1,76,417 voters, including 90,281 women, 86,132 men, and four transgenders, are expected to cast their votes in 182 polling stations across the constituency till 6 pm. Four booths, 91, 92, 93, and 94 at the Central Lower Primary School in Velloor under the Pampady police jurisdiction have been declared sensitive. The counting of votes is on Friday, 8 September.

A public holiday has been declared for all government, semi-government, educational, and commercial establishments in Puthuppally.

The high-octane campaign in Puthuppally often turned ugly with party cadres of both Congress and the CPI(M) targetting Chandy Oommen’s sister and Thomas’s wife. Both women approached the police with complaints about the vicious attack against them.

(With PTI inputs. The report has been updated with latest figures).