The Indian Union Muslim League’s KNA Khader was declared the winner of the Vengara bye-election in Kerala’s Malappuram district on Sunday. The IUML is the second-largest party in the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

The party retained the Assembly seat after defeating the Left Democratic Front’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate PP Basheer by 23,310 votes. While Khader got 65,227 votes, Basheer polled 41,917.

The Social Democratic Party of India’s candidate KC Naseer finished third with 8,648 votes, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s K Jinachandran came fourth with 5,728 votes.

The bye-poll, which was held on Wednesday, was necessitated after sitting MLA PK Kunhalikutty of the IUML vacated the seat to contest a bye-election for the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency, which had fallen vacant after the death of the sitting MP. Kunhalikutty had won the bye-poll.

The victory came as a huge relief for the United Democratic Front, which found itself on the back foot after the state government decided to launch a criminal and vigilance investigation against its leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, in connection with the solar scam case.

The government had announced the inquiry on polling day, which led to allegations that the government was trying to influence its voters.

The Bharatiya Janata Party fourth-place finish proved that it is still not a force to reckon with in South India. The party is heavily campaigning in Gujarat right now, where polls will be held before December 18. Himachal Pradesh will also have Assembly elections, which are scheduled for November 9.