People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 16

April 16, 2006



LDF Set For A Handsome Win

Prabha Verma


THE CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) are all set for the electoral battle to be held in Kerala in three phases – April 22, April 29 and May 3.


In the first phase, polling will be held in the four districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthita and Idukki. The next phase will see the districts of Alappuzha, Kottayam, Eranakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad going to polls  while the final phase of elections on May 3 will be held in Kasargod and Kannur districts. The counting of votes and announcement of results will take place on May 11 along with the rest of the states. It is for the first time that elections are being conducted in Kerala in more than one phase.


If the recent history of electoral politics of the state repeats itself, the Left is most likely to wrest power from the ruling coalition, which is war-torn with umpteen number of internal feuds. The UDF, which came to power in the 2001 assembly polls with an impressive majority, is today isolated from the people because of the anti-people policies it has implemented. It is also much-divided house with the main force, Congress party, ridden with shameless factional wars. Veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran, known to be a bete noire of  A K Antony and Oommen Chandy, had always acted as an internal opposition leader. He, along with his son and former KPCC president K Muraleedharan, created much ruckus in the party and the government, finally leading to severing of a long association with Congress and formation of a new party, the Democratic Indira Congress (DIC). Nine MLAs loyal to Karunakaran quit their membership in the assembly pledging solidarity with the veteran leader. The DIC declared that it would work against the anti-people policies of the state government. It had plans for a tie up with the LDF but the proposal was rejected by the CPI(M). The Muslim League vehemently campaigned for accommodating the father-son duo in the UDF fold till the last minute.


The political drama that unfolded in Thiruvananthapuram in the last weeks of March finally saw Karunakaran and his party back in the UDF fold, much to the dissatisfaction of chief minister Oommen Chandy who has faced the wrath of the old leader. This was a complete U-turn from what Karunakaran and Muraleedharan had preached in their party's state convention three days before the crucial decision to go back to the UDF was made. The DIC is contesting on its own election symbol. The Congress and the DIC signed a pact with some conditions before forging the alliance. According to the agreement, the DIC will have to merge with the Congress once the elections are over. Interestingly, just a day joining hands with the UDF, Karunakaran denied having signed any such pact with the Congress. Karunakaran had demanded 25 seats but with the Congress leadership rejecting the demand, he had to be content with just 17 seats. The Muslim League, which had spearheaded the compromise talks between the two parties gave another seat for K Muraleedharan to contest. The whole incident has created problems both within the Congress and the DIC. The two parties which had acted like permanent enemies in the recently held elections in the state are today struggling hard to convince their rank and file about the hastily-forged alliance. In many constituencies, the DIC workers either quit the party or openly rebelled against the state leadership. Both the Congress and the DIC face unprecedented problems of rebel candidates in this election.


It may be recalled that A K Antony, who was sworn in as chief minister of the state after the UDF came to power in 2001, had to step down midway owing to the discontent created among the people as a result of his government's policies. There was widespread demand from the Congress and members of the coalition for Antony’s resignation. Finally, the chief minister and some of the Congress ministers stepped down from office and Oommen Chandy took control of the affairs as chief minister. But Antony’s tenure had done much damage to the Congress party and the UDF. The rights of the government employees were trampled upon and their benefits drastically cut. The education sector was blatantly commercialised to such an extent that the private managements began to dictate terms to the government. N N Sooppy, minister for education in the Antony government, proved to be a big failure. It was during Antony’s rule the notorious police firing against tribals in Muthanga in Wyanad district took place. For the first time in the history of Kerala, an adivasi youth was killed in police firing.


In fact, the major feature of the UDF rule this time was the unprecedented number of custody deaths and police atrocities. Civilians and students who took to the streets protesting against government policies were brutally beaten up. The police frequently used tear gas shells, shock batons and grenades to quell public protests. SFI state president Sindhu is still in crutches – she is locking horns with the chief minister Oommen Chandy in the Puthuppally constituency as a CPI(M) candidate.


The crisis in agricultural sector and the increasing suicides of farmers are a matter of serious debate during the poll campaign. The UDF manifesto for 2001 assembly had promised to the people of Kottayam district that a locked up factory in the region will be opened with a golden key within 100 days of the coalition’s coming to power. Five year later, the factory still remains locked up. The leaders of the UDF hardly have to listen to public outcries since they were busy fighting each other.


The Bharatiya Janata Party’s presence in the elections is not very prominent. The party has repeated its claim of opening account in the state assembly this time. But in majority of the constituencies, their strength has gone down. The party is also facing severe problems owing to factional wars. The party’s senior leader and former central minister O Rajagopal is contesting from the Palakkad constituency. The BJP has a history of selling votes to the UDF in the last minute. This was very evident in the recently held civic polls and the bypoll in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP candidate C K Padmanabhan realised that his own party had ditched him by selling its vote bank.


There are several factors that decide the poll prospects of the major fronts in the state. Despite all the communal forces and media monopolies joining hands with the UDF against the LDF, the stage is set for the LDF to romp home in these elections.