The byelection to the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency is nearly drowned in the din of the Assembly election taking place simultaneously in the State.
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty, who resigned from the Lok Sabha to contest the Assembly from Vengara, is the common target of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) in Malappuram.
LDF’s V.P. Sanu, NDA’s A.P. Abdullakutty, and SDPI’s Taslim Rehmani are together in blaming Mr. Kunhalikutty for bringing about “an unwanted byelection” in Malappuram. In spite of having separate agendas, they continue to accuse Mr. Kunhalikutty of “cheating the people of Malappuram and being crazy for power.”
IUML’s M.P. Abdussamad Samadani, well known among Malayalis for his crowd-pulling oratory, is the UDF candidate in Malappuram. But the anti-Kunhalikutty campaign unleashed by the LDF-BJP-SDPI combine is rarely found to be having an impact in Malappuram. Mr. Samadani’s campaign continues to pull crowds wherever he addresses the people.
The Lok Sabha candidates of Malappuram are quite often seen electioneering with the Assembly candidates of their respective parties and fronts. When there are two candidates in a rally, the focus of importance often falls on the Assembly candidate. “It’s not because of the candidate’s personality or grandeur, but because of the keen interest that people have for the Assembly election,” said Abdul Kareem, a UDF campaigner in Malappuram.
The candidates have almost completed their final rounds of canvassing by focusing on road shows, corner meetings and family and social meetings. Each canvassing method has its advantages. In spite of the massive vote share that the IUML enjoys in Malappuram, rival candidates are putting up a brave front with the intention of reaching out to maximum voters and thus to reduce the IUML lead.
This will be the fifth election in Malappuram since the Lok Sabha constituency was formed in 2009. IUML’s late president E. Ahamed had won from Malappuram in 2009 and 2014 by 1.15 lakh and 1.94 lakh votes respectively. In a byelection held in 2017 following Ahamed’s death, Mr. Kunhalikutty was elected by 1.71 lakh votes. In the general election of 2019, which saw a UDF sweep across the State, Mr. Kunhalikutty was again elected by a historic margin of 2.6 lakh votes.
Mr. Samadani’s opponents such as Mr. Sanu, Mr. Abdullakutty and Mr. Rehmani are eyeing to bring down that lead. Addressing separate rallies, they said nothing would be impossible in elections. The IUML’s historic Manjeri debacle, in which T.K. Hamza had trounced K.P.A. Majeed in 2004, was being raised as a model of inspiration for them.
But the IUML appears strong and comfortable with its solid party votes in Malappuram.