Stage set for Kerala assembly by-election



Piravom: All arrangements are in place for the smooth conduct of Saturday's crucial by-election to the Piravom assembly constituency in Kerala.

The by-election is important as in the 2011 assembly polls, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) alliance scraped through with a wafer thin majority, which enabled Oommen Chandy to form the new government.

In the 140-member Kerala assembly, 71 seats are currently held by the UDF and 67 by the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF).

The by-election follows the death of T.M. Jacob, the food and civil supplies minister who was the sitting legislator from Piravom. He was the lone legislator of his party, Kerala Congress (Jacob), an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

His son Anup Jacob, 34, is taking on his father's old rival M.J. Jacob of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

State chief electoral officer Nalini Netto said all arrangements are in place and there are 93,245 women and 89,925 male voters.

"Voting will begin at 7 a.m. and end at 5 p.m and electronic voting machines would be used in all the 134 polling stations, of which 26 have been identified as trouble prone. Counting of votes would be held on March 21," said Netto.

Chandy has said the verdict will be like a referendum on the performance of his nine-month-old government. "We have no doubt about the outcome of this by-election," said Chandy.

But veteran Communist and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan said people will teach the present government a good lesson for what they have done in the past nine months. "Our candidate will win," he claimed.

IANS