People by and large seem to have voted against politics of murder and intimidation. The ruling Congress managed to eke out a win by harping on the violence allegedly unleashed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist. The latter was unable to come up with an effective rebuttal especially after the then CPI-M Idukki district secretary MM Mani boasted about how the communists had eliminated three INTUC members back in the 1980s.
Capitalising on his unexpected disclosure, Congress leaders painted their main rivals as ruthless killers. The arrest of some CPI-M activists in connection with the May 4 murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party founder TP Chandrasekharan served to further put the opposition party on the back foot.
To compound their woes, VS Achuthanandan surprisingly chose the worst possible time to vent his grievance about the direction the CPI-M had taken of late. The former Chief Minister not only fired a salvo at party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan just days before the crucial bypoll, he also visited Onchiyam on the polling day.
It created confusion among CPI-M cadre and caused a sharp decrease in the number of their total votes this time compared to 2011 when the party's candidate R Selvaraj bagged 54,711 votes. Though it was his subsequent defection to the Congress that necessitated the bypoll, Selvaraj again tasted success in 2012 by apparently convincing the voters that the CPI-M leadership had forced his exit.
Citing the case of Chandrasekharan, Selvaraj claimed that he too would have been killed if he had remained in the party. Anyway, the Left Democratic Front candidate F Lawrence could only manage 46,105 votes in 2012 while Selvaraj got 52483.
Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party benefited from an amazing jump in support. O Rajagopal got 30,507 votes compared to the 6730 votes BJP candidate Athiyanoor Sreekumar polled in 2011. This nearly five-fold increase is attributed to Rajagopal's popularity. Another factor was a palpable dissatisfaction within the majority community over the Congress pandering to 'unreasonable' demands of the Muslim League.
However, the general unease over the violence engineered by the CPI-M meant that its main rival emerged as the winner in the three-way race. The election result must be seen in this particular context and not misconstrued as a positive vote for the Oommen Chandy-led Congress government in the state.