Political behaviour in Kerala is unique in many ways. For the last three decades, the state has experimented with bipolar politics with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) ruling the state alternately. By that logic, it is the turn of the UDF to win this time.
Even otherwise, there’s a clear UDF wave this time. The UDF may not match the LDF’s 2004 sweep (it bagged 19 of the 20 seats), but it will likely emerge victorious in at least 15 seats.
In southern Travancore and central Kerala, the UDF has a clear edge, but in northern Malabar the left will give a tough fight to the Congress-led coalition. In a bid to fight the anti-incumbency wave, the CPI(M) has dropped many of its sitting MPs and fielded young candidates, which may help it avert a complete washout.
On the eve of the polls, the CPI(M) central leadership forced a ceasefire in its state unit. But most of the differences between Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan and CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan remain. The factional feuds have reached the grassroots and in at least three constituencies — Vatakara, Palakkad and Kozhikode — party rebels are likely to cut into the Communist votes.
The powerful Catholic church is angry with the government on issues like the fee structure in self-financing colleges. Some dioceses have issued letters urging believers to teach the LDF a lesson. (Christians constitute 18.5 per cent of the population). Similarly, fringe Muslim outfits like the National Development Front and Jamat-e-Islami, which backed the LDF last time, have deserted it.
Then, the CPI(M)’s courtship of the Muslim cleric Abdul Nasser Madhani (freed in Coimbatore blasts case but yet to shake off the terror tag) is likely to boomerang and cause a Hindu backlash. The CPI and RSP have openly expressed their displeasure over it. Sensing trouble, the party’s central leaders have distanced themselves from Madhani but it seems the damage is already done.
The exit of the Janata Dal, which was denied the Kozhikode seat, is likely to cause trouble in two constituencies in Malabar, Vatakara and Kozhikode.
The Lavalin power scam in which Vijayan is an accused continues to rattle the LDF. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has highlighted it in some of her meetings. Her whirlwind tour has given a fresh impetus to the otherwise dull electioneering. For a change the Congress, dogged by infighting, presents a united look. Going by the present political climate the UDF has a clear edge.