North-East monsoon prompts 'orange alert' on polling day in Kerala 

Vinson Kurian THIRUVANANTHAPURAM | Updated on October 21, 2019 Published on October 21, 2019

Voting is underway in Vattiyoorkavu, Manjeswaram, Aroor, Konni and Ernakulam

Most parts of Kerala, where crucial Assembly by-elections are being held on Monday, are under an 'orange alert' as a virulent phase of the ongoing North-East monsoon has started unfolding.

Prospects of moderate to heavy to very heavy rain may have upset the calculations of political parties eagerly looking to settle scores and prove a point in the five Assembly seats going to polls from 7 am.

An 'orange alert' had been declared from Sunday in many districts in the state, and it is valid in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram and Wayanad on Monday.

The Met Department has warned of heavy to very heavy rain (up to 11.5 cm) or extremely heavy rain (between 11.5 cm and 20.4 cm) at isolated places in these districts during a 24-hour period.

Among the five constituencies that are going to polls, only Manjeswaram looks to be free from a washout according to the latest rain charts available (6.30 AM), even as the other four are expecting the ongoing rains to stay, if not escalate.

LDF looking to gain momentum

They are Vattiyoorkavu (Thiruvananthapuram), Aroor (Alappuzha), Konni (Kollam) and Ernakulam, two of which are outside the 'orange alert' call, but could still expect moderate rainfall through the day.

The three fronts of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and the NDA have reasons to worry as the polling pattern are likely to get hit by the rains.

Except Aroor (Alappuzha), a CPI(M)-held seat, all four are sitting seats of the UDF -- these seats became vacant after the MLAs fought and won in the Lok Sabha elections. The UDF swept the general elections that was held earlier this year, winning 19 of the 20 seats. The LDF won in Alappuzha only.

The LDF is hoping that the recent success in a by-election from Pala, following the demise of many-time Finance Minister and Kerala Congress (M) strongman KM Mani, would help it successfully navigate in Monday's five.

BJP looking for a win

What makes the polls a contest to watch is the spirited presence of the NDA-BJP, which had ended up a close second in both Vattiyoorkavu and Manjeswaram in the 2016 Assembly elections.

These constituencies apart, the now-acknowledged third front is putting up a stiff fight in Konni in Pathanamthitta district, the seat of the hill shrine of Sabarimala, with the firebrand K Surendran in the fray.

Sabarimala may not have found much traction for various this time round, but the war cries of socio-cultural fronts Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Ezhava Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) may have made up for it.

The stakes are high for all major political formations since the by-elections could possibly set the tone for elections to the local self-government bodies and the next State Assembly, which are not too far behind. 

The other issues hogging the limelight in Kerala have been the 'marks awarding' row controversy involving Higher Education minister KT Jaleel and the alleged 'unkept' promises by the ruling LDF.

45 other by-elections

Elsewhere in the country, campaigning had ended on Saturday for 46 Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies spread across 18 states.

The BJP and allies, which had nearly 30 of these assembly seats, are hoping that the winning momentum of Lok Sabha election will continue. The Congress had won 12 of the seats while the rest are with regional parties.

Among the states ruled by the BJP and allies, 11 by-elections take place Uttar Pradesh, followed by six in Gujarat, five in Bihar, four in Assam and Punjab, three in Sikkim, two each in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, and one each in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry.

Campaigning also concluded for by-elections to the Satara (Maharashtra) and Samastipur (Bihar) Lok Sabha seats, respectively held by the NCP and the LJP respectively.

Haryana and Maharashtra are also going to the polls on Monday, the first major elections after the BJP retained power in the Lok Sabha polls in April-May winning 303 seats out of 543.

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Published on October 21, 2019
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