Kerala assembly election to be held on April 6; LDF, UDF in direct contest
Kerala will vote to pick a new assembly on April 6, the Election Commission announced on Friday.
The southern state, which has a long-standing tradition of not voting for the incumbent government, will see a fierce contest between the Congress- led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF)—both parties that have taken turns in the seat of power.
The elections are crucial for the incumbent LDF, since Kerala remains the only Communist bastion in the country after the fall of the Left government in Tripura. For the Congress, a victory in the state would offer a balm after a slew of electoral upsets elsewhere.
While the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government is hoping to buck the trend and retain power on the basis of its “governance model”, citing the creation of new public sector units and infrastructure development, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have attacked it for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming that the state is now among the worst-affected in the country. On Thursday, Kerala recorded 3,677 new Covid-19 cases, marking a slight drop from the previous day’s 4,106 cases.
The government is also being slammed for the alleged involvement of some of its officials in the gold scam and an agreement it signed with a US tech firm to collate the data of people in quarantine. The issue of unemployment will also figure, as a sizeable number of people has returned home after losing their jobs in the pandemic.
CPI(M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP KK Ragesh, however, said Kerala’s Covid-19 case history should not be seen as a measure of its performance. He said, “Serosurvey in several states shows that as much as 60% of the population was infected, but many have under-reported their numbers. In Kerala, Covid Care Centres were set up from the primary healthcare level upwards to ensure that people are given proper treatment.”
Ragesh said the LDF will be the first government to return to power in the state based on the development work they carried out. “All the promises that were made in the manifesto were met and the government has gone beyond that. While privatisation is taking place across the country, in Kerala, not only have the existing PSUs been strengthened but new ones have been set up,” he said.
The Congress, which is trying to emerge from the shadows of its poor showing in the December local body elections, is hoping its performance will be similar to its 2019 Lok Sabha feat, wherein, along with its allies, it bagged 19 of the 20 seats. It is also crucial for the Congress to win the assembly elections since it has had a spate of electoral upsets, the most recent being the fall of its government in Puducherry weeks ahead of the assembly polls. With a strong party cadre in the state, the party is eyeing a return to power. A win in Kerala, political analysts said, could signal the return of the former president and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi—who is leading the campaign—to the top job in the party.
Lok Sabha MP Hibi Eden credited the Congress for “effective interventions” that led to the rollback of some government policies and said the ongoing agitation by the aspirants in the public service commission rank list is an illustration of the state government’s “failure”.
“It was the leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala who raised the issue of the LDF government allowing a US-based tech firm Sprinklr to collect health data of people under quarantine (without their consent),” Eden said.
The BJP, on the other hand, said it is a key contender in the “triangular fight”. The party is all set to go to polls, highlighting the allegations of corruption against the government, with a particular focus on the gold smuggling issue that was linked to officials in the chief minister’s office. State unit president, K Surendran said people want the Narendra Modi model of development and see the BJP as an alternative to both the UDF and the LDF. He said the party will contest all the 140 seats and will raise the issue of corruption, unemployment and the politics of appeasement.
“Now the chief minister is talking of withdrawing cases against people involved in the Sabarimala agitation. The question is how can those who fought for Lord Ayyappa be equated with those who were part of the anti-Citizen (Amendment) Act agitation and were propped up by anti-India forces,” he said.
The BJP, which could not gain from the Sabarimala issue in the Lok Sabha elections, will raise the issue of interfaith marriages, and, in a bid to woo Christian voters, press ahead with the concerns the community has over several issues, including benefits for minorities.