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Kerala bypoll: CPM will win comfortably in Chengannur, says party leader

Kerala CPM chief Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

Chengannur, Kerala: After trouncing the Left in Tripura, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set its eyes on the Chengannur bypolls in Kerala, where it expects to make a point by defeating the ruling communists in their last bastion. The bypoll is crucial, as it is seen as a curtain-raiser for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. In an interview with Mint, Kerala’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM chief Kodiyeri Balakrishnan weighs in on this formidable challenge from India’s ruling party. Edited excerpts:

Why do you think the bypoll is so important?

After Tripura and Karnataka, the BJP thinks it can win Kerala. When we lost Tripura, they made an announcement. They said Chengannur bypoll will pave the road for its big victory in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. We welcome Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to campaign in this bypoll.

What’s your prediction on the results?

CPM will win with a comfortable majority. It is a three-way contest. Congress will come second and BJP third. But BJP’s vote tally will go down from the previous election (in 2016).

Have you made any deal with religious or caste forums to win this bypoll, especially with the influential Orthodox Christian church?

We are not dependent on them. Our political stance is very clear, we are seeking votes on the basis of the development agenda of the LDF government and its pro-welfare image.

CPM was trying to woo Congress’ estranged partner K.M. Mani. But his Kerala Congress party is expected to support Congress. Are you surprised?

Mani has always supported (Congress-led) United Democratic Front (UDF), after the split. In Vengara assembly bypoll, Mani had campaigned for the UDF. In Malappuram Lok Sabha bypoll also he had campaigned for the coalition.

Will you consider him if he changes his mind?

That we cannot say. In politics, we do not know what will happen tomorrow.

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