Vol. XLIII No. 14 April 07, 2019
KERALA: LDF’s Election Campaign Surges Ahead

V B Parameswaran

ALONG with rising temperatures, the political atmosphere is also blowing hot in Kerala, the southern-most state of the country. The entry of Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad constituency has also added to this. By any count, Left Democratic Front (LDF) is far ahead in electioneering and campaign. Three weeks ago, all the 20 candidates from the Left were announced. The selection of candidates also gives an impression that the LDF has taken the fight against Modi government very seriously. All sitting MPs except P Karunakaran, were retained, and four MLAs are in the fray. Every section of the media, even the hostile ones, appreciated the LDF candidate list. These candidates have completed two rounds of campaign and now the third one has started. Central leaders of the Left parties are campaigning in the state. Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI(M) , Polit Bureau members, S Ramachandran Pillai, M A Baby, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan-state secretary of  CPI(M)  have been campaigning . Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan is leading the campaign in the state. Strong anti-corruption credentials of the Left, major developmental initiatives and effective measures for the rebuilding of Kerala, after the devastating floods, are the main campaign themes of the LDF.

From the beginning itself, there was confusion in the UDF camp. Firstly, Congress working committee member and AICC general secretary, K C Venugopal and KPCC chief, Mullapally Ramachandran withdrew from the contest. These sitting MPs’ withdrawals delivered a message that they were running away from contest out of fear of defeat.  In a big embarrassment to the Congress, just before the polls, senior party leader and AICC secretary Tom Vadakkan joined the BJP. It gives a clear message that even in Kerala, Congress leaders are vulnerable. Another big jolt was the denial of ticket to the Congress veteran and six-time MP and former minister K V Thomas. A shocked Thomas even hinted to join hands with the BJP. Another disadvantage of the UDF is the A-I group rivalry within the KPCC under the leadership of Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.  CWC member, P C Chacko blasted these groups in a press conference openly.

When the UDF smelled that the political situation is heavily in favour of the LDF, they tried to stitch together the age old unholy alliance of the Congress, BJP and the Muslim league in the state. CPI(M) in Kerala has said that due to this unholy nexus, BJP has put weak candidates in five constituencies. As per the understanding, Congress would shift their core votes to NDA in three constituencies –Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Trivandrum and BJP will do the same in three constituencies, namely Kollam, Vadakara and Kannur. In 1991, a similar unholy nexus was thoroughly defeated by the LDF in Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency and in Beypore assembly constituency. CPI(M) was confident that this time also,  people will give a fitting reply to this unholy alliance.

Another disadvantage of the UDF is that some of their candidates are controversial persons. During the last assembly elections, the then KPCC president, V M Sudheeran had denied election tickets to Benny Behanan, Adoor Prakash and Hibi Eden on the ground of solar corruption and sex scandals. This time, all three are in the fray. This in itself exposes the UDF’s credentials.  At this juncture, Rahul Gandhi has been dropped in Wayanad constituency to enthuse the Congress cadres. But, it gives a very negative message to the secular polity and society. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked the Congress leadership as to what message they are giving by contesting against the Left. If Rahul Gandhi’s fight is against the BJP, he should have contested against the stronghold of the saffron party. In Kerala, the fight is between the LDF and the UDF in the elections. The present move can only be seen as a fight against the Left, Pinarayi said. The Hindu, in one of its editorials commented, “his (Rahul Gandhi) candidacy in Wayanad can do nothing for the larger secular cause.”