It’s been represented by stalwarts like G.M. Banatwala, Ebrahim Suliamn Sait and E. Ahamad of the IUML but the Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency in North Kerala hasn’t returned a single Congress candidate since the first General Election in 1951. That’s all of 68 years and it’s likely to maintain the record even this time around.
The Congress had ceded the constituency, one of the very few in the country to have never returned a candidate of the Grand Old Party, to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), its ally both in Kerala and the centre, and this arrangement is likely to continue for a long time to come.
Since 1969, Ponnani is part of the Malappuram district and prior to the formation of Kerala in 1956, it was part of the Malabar district that was under the administrative control of the Madras presidency.
Ponnani, during the yesteryears, was an important centre for Muslim traders as its port is located on the Arabian sea. It also served as the military headquarters of the erstwhile Kozhikode rulers.
What is surprising is that even Congress top guns like former two time Chief Minister Oommen Chandy are not aware of Ponnani’s ‘track record’.
“Are you sure, this is correct,” was Chandy’s first response to a question about Ponnani.
Elaborating on why this has happened, he said Kerala politics is quite unique as it is here that the concept of coalition government’s took shape and has stood the test of time.
“Coalition politics strengthened ever since 1967 after E. M. S. Namboodiripad formed the state government. In 1970, under CPI veteran C. Achutha Menon, the Congress also joined his ministry and from then on coalition politics has come to stay. From 1977 this has been the seat of our ally, Indian Union Muslim League, and it’s quite natural that the Congress party will not get that seat to contest,” Chandy explained.
Since the first general election in 1951, Ponnani has been represented 11 times by the IUML and its candidates have been recording a continuous run of victories from 1977 onwards. The incumbent, E.T.Mohammed Basheer, is seeking a hat-trick of wins.
In the past, G.M. Banatwala has represented the constituency seven time and Ebrahim Sulaiman sait and E. Ahamad, the Minister of State in the UPA government (2004-14), once each.
Ponnani was represented by Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party. In the first Lok Sabha election, once by the undivided Communist Party in 1962 and in 1967 and 1971 by the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
The Ponnani Lok Sabha seat encompasses seven assembly constituencies, of which six are in Malappuram district, while the Thirthala constituency is located in Palakkad district.
Four of the constituencies were won by the Congress-led UDF in the 2016 assembly polls and three by the with the ruling CPI-M led LDF.
Senior IUML leader Abdurahiman Randathani, who lost the 2016 assembly election from the Tanur constituency, said he too was not aware of Ponnani’s unique record.
“I would attribute this to coalition politics. Prior to formation of Malappuram district in 1969, the Congress party and the IUML had contested against each other. With the formation of the present day United Democratic Front Aled by the Congress, Ponnani and Malappuram Lok Sabha seats have always been contested by the IUML and this has come to stay, given the profile of the district,” Randathani said.
The IUML had contested 23 seats in the 2016 assembly polls won 18. In Malappuram district alone the IUML contests from 12 out of its 16 assembly seats, clearly indicating that in the district, even the Congress, which leads the UDF, is relegated to a distant second place with just four seats.