Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a key partner in the Congress-led UDF opposition in Kerala, is holding the edge in the October 11 byelection to Vengara assembly constituency in Malappuram district where the campaigning entered the last phase. Though the constituency is considered a stronghold of IUML making it the favourite, the ruling CPI-M led LDF has made all out efforts to put up a tough fight in the polls, campaigning for which will come to a close tomorrow evening. The bypoll is being held to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty following his election to Lok Sabha from Malappuram seat that fell vacant after the death of party leader E Ahmed i February this year. The main fight in Vengara this time is between IUML's K N A Khader, who earlier represented nearby Vallikkunnu segment in the Assembly between 2011 and 2016, and CPI(M)'s P P Basheer. Besides the two main rivals, notable among others in the fray are BJP candidate K Janachandran and K C Naseer of Social Democratic Party of India, the political arm of Popular Front of India,which wields some influence in the Muslim-majority Malappuram region. Kunhalikutty had won the seat with an impressive margin of 38,057 votes in the 2016 election. He had moved to the Lok Sabha after the Malappuram seat fell vacant following the death of senior IUML leader E Ahmed. LDF had been highlighting the welfare initiatives taken by its government especially for non-resident Keralites and the threat posed by 'communal forces' among others during the campaign. The UDF, on the other hand, has been focusing on the alleged 'failure' of the LDF government and the development works done by the Kuhnalikutty in the constituency. Kunhalikutty has said the byelection outcome would be a referendum on the performance of the state government and the Centre. BJP which got 3,417 votes in 2011 improved its position in the last election by garnering nearly 7,000 votes. The party, which has launched a 15-day march on Oct 3 against the LDF regime, is hopeful that it would make a major impact this time and its main poll plank is the achievements of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and 'corruption' during the rule of both LDF and UDF. Counting of votes is scheduled for October 15.
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