With 54 per cent of the total votes counted on Monday Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) legislator P.K. Kunhalikutty increased his lead to over a lakh votes in the Malappuram by-poll in Kerala.
From the time the counting of votes statrted at 8 a.m. the IUML strongman was far ahead of his nearest rival — CPI-M candidate and youth leader M.B. Faisal; while the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate N. Sreeprakash was a distant third.
Meanwhile, Kunhalikutty came out of his home as jubilant supporters shouting slogans lifted him up.
Speaking to the media as supporters egged him, Kunhalikutty said they have led in village councils where the Left is ruling.
“This is because the electorate have placed faith in me as I spoke about the need for a secular outlook. Also the unity of the Congress-led-UDF has helped us in this,” Kunhalikutty added.
The total turnout at Malappuram by-election on April 12, was 71.33 per cent.
The only question that now remains is whether he would be able to better the 1.94 lakh votes that was secured by E. Ahamed in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The re-poll was necessitated after the death of sitting MP and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader E. Ahamed.
Malappuram district is the citadel of the IUML and Ahamed won the 2014 polls with a record margin.
But during the 2016 assembly elections, the margin of the IUML legislators, who won in all the seven assembly constituencies, came down to 1.18 lakh votes.
Kunhalikutty is leading in all the seven assembly constituencies and in his home assembly constituency -Vengara, his lead has crossed 20,000 votes.
The outcome of the poll could well be the first indicator on how well the 10-month-old Pinarayi Vijayan government has functioned.