People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXV

No. 16

April  17, 2011

 

KERALA ELECTION SCENARIO

 

UDF Camp Nervous as

LDF Campaign Surges Ahead

 

N S Arjun

in Thiruvananthapuram

 

WITH just four days to go for the votes to be cast, a sense of nervousness has gripped the UDF camp about the mandate of the people of Kerala. Seeing the massive, enthusiastic and spontaneous response to the LDF electoral campaign, particularly of the chief minister V S Achutanandan's meetings, and the total flop election campaigns of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh, a jittery Congress leadership is resorting to desperation. A sign of their desperation can be seen in the union defence minister A K Antony's recent warning to the people of Kerala that if they vote LDF back again, it would turn Kerala into another Bengal! Another sign is in the concentration of their attack on the leader of LDF campaign, V S Achutanandan, to dent his image. The UDF camp realises that there is no anti-incumbency factor working in the state, largely due to the pro-people performance of the LDF government.

 

The UDF had won 16 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 general election and almost 60 per cent of seats in the local body polls in 2010. The UDF itself and all pundits had taken it for granted about assuming power in the 2011 assembly polls. However the political situation for the UDF has worsened in the last three months due to a variety of factors. A big blow had been the damaging revelations about their key alliance partner IUML leader, Kunihalikutty, in the infamous ice cream parlour sex scandal case; the jailing of another key alliance leader and former minister, R Balakrishna Pillai, in a corruption case; and the fresh revelations in the palmolein case. This was even as unprecedented corruption scandals kept tumbling out of the UPA-II central government almost on a weekly basis. All these freshened up the minds of the people about the ignominious record of the previous UDF regimes in the state. Anna Hazare's hunger strike and the response it has evoked across the country have also put the UDF camp on the defensive.

 

On top of this situation, the seat sharing agreements and the selection of candidates in the UDF was a big messy affair. Needing to accommodate smaller parties (Kerala Congress Joseph group; Socialist Janata led by Veerendra Kumar) that had left LDF, the seat sharing exercise became problematic. It led to bitterness among UDF partners that was expressed openly. Within the Congress, the ticket distribution saw severe pulls from the two factions led by the leader of opposition Oomen Chandy and PCC president Ramesh Chennithala. The high command had to step in to reconcile the demands of both factions. A former minister and senior executive member of the KPCC K K Ramachandran Master openly accused the leaders of selling the tickets to the highest bidders!

 

This state of affairs stood in direct contrast to the smooth manner in which the LDF accomplished similar tasks. The seat adjustments and ticket distribution were done without any problems and much ahead of the UDF. The focus of the LDF electoral campaign has been on the remarkable achievements of its government in various fields, a testimony to which were the numerous awards received by the state government departments, including from the Congress-led UPA-II government.

 

One of its main achievements, the provision of 35 kg of rice at Rs 2 per kg to both BPL and APL category people, was sought to be scuttled by the Congress. It complained to the Election Commission against the government decision to extend the scheme to APL people. Although the decision was taken by the government much before the election notification was issued, the Commission stayed the implementation. The state government approached the High Court which vacated the stay. But the EC approached the Supreme Court which re-imposed the stay. The LDF has made this issue an important part of its campaign, pointing out to people how the Congress is obstructing giving of subsidised rice to the APL category people.

 

Given the entirely changed electoral scenario, the UDF is falling back on communal and casteist alliances to help it sail through the polls. It has pinned hopes on the five districts that have significant Christian population. There were pastoral letters issued by sections of church in the 2009 general elections asking people to vote for the UDF. This time so far no such letters have been issued but the UDF is hoping for a majority in these districts. Although there has never been en bloc voting of the religious communities based on the appeals of the religious leaders, the UDF is playing the communal card. Also, it is hoping for good performance in the IUML stronghold of Mallapuram district, where the number of seats increased from 12 to 16 after the delimitation exercise. The UDF is also resorting to use of money power to change the situation.

 

But the LDF is confident of retaining its strongholds and getting a majority in the elections. Clearly, it appears that with each passing day the prospects of the LDF are appearing brighter while those of the UDF seem receding by the day. Today, the Kerala election is a wide open one, with the LDF having an edge. Hence, a real possibility this time of breaking the so-called pattern of change of after every 5 years.

 

(April 9, 2011)