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Kerala LS polls: Wounded Left to take on pampered Centre

Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times  Thiruvananthapuram, March 05, 2014
First Published: 01:05 IST(5/3/2014) | Last Updated: 01:11 IST(5/3/2014)

Kerala —famous for its polemical to violent politics — is looking staid these days.

For, the Left has been weakened by constant blood-letting and the right has been scattered with no Modi bonding in sight so far, while the centre — in power both at the Centre and the state at the moment — is not yet battle-ready.

With only 20 LS seats, Kerala has eight ministers in the UPA government — two cabinet and six MoS — disproportionate but understandable. In the 2009 general elections, the Congress-led United Democratic Front won 16 LS seats, leaving just four to the CPI(M)-backed LDF.

But this time, the UDF may not be as lucky, although barring the LDF, the ‘opposition’ is noticed mainly by its absence. The BJP has to wait to realise its dream of opening an account, even though the NaMo factor may help improve its ever-dipping vote-share.

What the UDF has to fight against this time is its own image, sullied by charges of corruption. Eight months ago, when the solar project scam —involving an alleged con-woman and some staff members of CM Oommen Chandy’s office — raged, the UDF fortunes dipped.

Pollsters predicted an LDF sweep, but Chandy managed a recovery of sorts, especially after three CPI(M) office-bearers were prosecuted in the murder of party rebel TP Chandrasekharan.

The CPI(M), which is looking south following its losses in Bengal, suffered further embarrassment when key leader VS Achuthanandan openly supported TP’s widow K K Rema’s demand for a CBI probe.

But in view of his mass base, the party asked its state leadership to suffer his barbs — at least till the LS poll. But the forced ceasefire failed to stop TP’s widow from holding a state-wide ‘yatra’ against the CPI(M)’s ‘politics of violence’.

Deep cracks are also visible in the northern Malabar area, considered to be a red bastion. The Revolutionary Socialist Party, the party floated by TP after leaving the CPI(M), has announced its plans to contest at least five seats in the region.

But the troubles in the LDF have not necessarily made the UDF’s task easy.

As always, seat division among the allies is proving tricky. Last time, the Congress contested 17 seats and won 13. This time, The Kerala Congress (Mani), which has one seat, is clamouring for two.

The Congress also has to accommodate the splinter Veerendra Kumar faction of the Janata Dal, which crossed over in 2009, after the LDF denied it Kozhikode, which it already occupied.

Another nagging problem for the UDF is the Kasturirangan report on the ecology of the Western Ghats, which has declared parts of the area sensitive and restricted farming there. Though the Centre has deferred the report, Christians in the area demanded that the report be scrapped. The UDF now fears proximity between the LDF and the Christians, who form 18% of the 33-milllion population and wield enough clout in the state.

The Congress is also trying hard to contain intra-party conflicts. The elevation of VM Sudheeran, known as Mr Clean, as the PCC chief has given a strong message to the backward Ezhavas, the single largest community in the state.Though the CM is not amused with the decision, party chief Sonia Gandhi has given a clear message that partisan politics will have to end.

The party has also appeased upper caste Nairs by making Ramesh Chennithala the home minister in the Chandy cabinet. All this has given a boost to ticket seekers and lobbying for berths is in full swing.

Like surrogate advertisements, posters of many Congress leaders who have not been seen around for quite long have started dotting the countryside. Although that indicates good prospects for the UDF, the Left and the Right are not as staid as they look at the moment.

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