Congress picks late Oommen Chandy’s son for his seat, CPM says will fight bypoll like any election

THE CONGRESS Tuesday announced Chandy Oommen as its candidate for the Puthuppally Assembly seat in Kerala, represented by his father continuously since 1970. The seat fell vacant following Oommen Chandy’s death last month after prolonged illness.

The Congress declared Chandy Oommen as its candidate hours after the Election Commission announced that by-elections for seven seats in various states would be held on September 5.

In anticipation of the Congress trying to explore a sympathy wave in Puthuppally, which falls in Kottayam district, on account of the huge popularity of its late veteran, CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan said the LDF would fight the bypoll like any other election.

“We will expose the Congress-led Opposition’s negative approach towards development. Their approach is that no developmental project would be allowed in Kerala. People have got an opportunity to vote against the negative approach of the Congress. Our organisational system is already in election mode in Puthuppally,’’ he said.

Of the eight panchayats under the Puthuppally Assembly seat, six are ruled by the CPI(M)-led LDF.

The party is hoping to turn the by-election – the second since the LDF returned to power in 2021 – into a “referendum” on the two-year-old Pinarayi Vijayan government. In the earlier by-election, for Thrikkakara constituency, the Congress had retained its sitting seat after fielding Uma Thomas, the widow of then incumbent legislator and senior party leader P T Thomas.

“Memories of Chandy are still alive,” Satheesan said. “But we will convert this by-election into an opportunity to expose the CPI(M) government in Kerala and the BJP government at the Centre. We are confident of a big victory in Puthuppally.”

In the constituency, the mourning for its long-term MLA still continues, with Chandy’s grave receiving a steady stream of visitors.

His son Chandy Oommen is a Youth Congress state general secretary and chairman of its outreach cell. Congress state leaders had met the family to decide Chandy’s successor in the constituency.

The CPI(M) might pit its young leader Jaick C Thomas, who had contested against Chandy in the last two Assembly elections, against Oommen. While Thomas is also a native of Puthuppally, he belongs to the Jacobite Church, while Chandy’s family belongs to the rival Christian Orthodox Church.

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