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Updated: March 6, 2014 12:14 IST

Kerala in poll mode as make-or-break battle begins

George Jacob
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Much at stake for three major players in the State and at national level

As in every election, the political horizon in the early run-up to the campaign is marked by a suspenseful uncertainty, since the heat and dust tossed up by the games being played out in the political arena, are yet to settle. Only one thing is certain - that the 16th general elections is a make-or-break battle for not only the two major players, the Congress and the CPI(M), whose State units are burdened with the responsibility of contributing the major share to their national kitty, but also for the others, including the BJP, whose mass appeal is on test.

With 10 years in power at the Centre and 1,000 days in the State, the Congress-led administration is approaching the electorate with a mixed bag as every major achievement is being weighed down by unprecedented levels of corruption.

On the other hand, at the party level, a deft move by the central leadership to infuse a whiff of transparency into the State party apparatus vitiated by acute factionalism, through the induction of V.M. Sudheeran as its president, has led to unexpected results.

The elections will be the first opportunity to test whether the induction of the new party chief has helped in generating the synergy it was expected to. The Congress’s major ally in central Kerala, Kerala Congress (M), already bogged down by internal division, appears to be running into rough weather since settler farmers, party’s vote base, have found new lobbyists outside the political spectrum to champion their cause.

While the Catholic Church, a trusted UDF ally, is fuming over the K. Kasturirangan panel report, the keepers of the Hindu vote bank appear to be disenchanted with the UDF over a series incidents, a process which commenced with the induction of the fifth representative of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) into the Cabinet.

At the moment, one of the few political parties in the UDF that is happy with the prevailing situation appears to be the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The party is united and in Narendra Modi, it has identified the right opponent who will help it mobilise votes in its strongholds.

First major test

For the LDF and its lead partner the CPI(M), the elections will be the first major test after the huge credibility deficit it suffered following the T.P. Chandrasekharan murder. The electoral outcome will not only tell whether the wounds have healed but also enlighten on the acceptance of the leadership outside the party structure.

However, one major challenge to be faced by the CPI(M) appears to be the increasingly shrinking vote base of its partners, forcing it to carry the burden of fighting the election on its own. This will have an impact during the candidate selection process, it is pointed out.

For the BJP State unit too, the 2014 general election has tossed up an unprecedented challenge. With the kind of optimism exuded by the national leadership, it remains to be seen whether the State unit can afford to continue its lethargy and carry on the piggyback joy ride on the national party structure without contributing in the parliamentary process.

The national leadership will be keen not only in adding to the numbers but also in ensuring the party’s footprint in an otherwise barren electoral terrain. This election may also witness the entry of the AAP into the arena, angling for votes influenced by the issue of political morality.

The election, for the first time, will provide a new weapon to the electorate in the form of None Of The Above (NOTA) option. Whether this will be utilised by lobbyists, activists, and the marginalised sections will be closely watched.

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