VS stance, court remark on Chandy, RSP’s allegiance switch spice up poll-scape

The campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections in the 20 constituencies in the State came to a close on Tuesday evening. The State goes to the polling booth on Thursday.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which had a 16-4 advantage in 2009, is up against the challenge of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in the State, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had not succeeded in opening its account so far.

The campaign this time was full of the unpredictable, with developments before and after its start fuelling its progress.

The State unit of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) left the LDF rankled by the CPI(M) not conceding the Kollam seat to it and its leader N.K. Premachandran is the UDF candidate against CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M.A. Baby there.

The campaign saw some fiery attack and counterattack on this development, turning the Kollam fight into a prestigious one.

Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan “choosing to end his confrontationist stand” in the CPI(M) was another development that provided grist to the campaign. While this was interpreted as a “big letdown” by one section, it no doubt injected a new enthusiasm among the party cadre .

The Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS) of veteran leader K.R. Gouri then left the UDF to campaign for the LDF and a section of the Communist Marxist Party (CMP) of M.V. Raghavan also did the same, irked by lack of recognition of its worth in the UDF setup.

The campaign period witnessed an adverse comment on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy by the High Court of Kerala in a land-grab case involving his former gunman and the LDF immediately grabbed it to demand Mr. Chandy’s resignation and embarrass the UDF.

The UDF managed to extricate itself from the issue with the government going in appeal before a Division Bench of the High Court and getting part of the damaging observation in the verdict of the single judge stayed. The ‘solar scam’ too had its reverberations throughout the campaign.

The T.P. Chandrasekharan murder case had a niggling presence as a State-specific issue in the campaign against the CPI(M), while the LDF focussed a great deal of attention in turning to its advantage the fears of the people of the high range areas of the State over the implementation of the K. Kasturirangan panel recommendations for the conservation of Western Ghats and those of the coastal fishermen over the implementation of the coastal zone regulations. Though such State-specific issues figured in the campaign, the key issue put before the electorate was whether the State should back the Congress-led coalition to form the next government at the Centre against the “Hindutva threat” of the BJP, or whether it should bank on the assurance of the Left parties that “a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance is a viable possibility”.

Corruption under the Congress-led regime at the Centre, price rise, and the economic policies of the government in general, were issues projected by the LDF strongly.

The BJP is making a strong bid to open its account in Kerala using the Modi factor and the Aam Aadmi Party is in the fray in 15 constituencies, testing the waters.

National leaders who campaigned in the State include Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony; BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and senior leader L.K. Advani; CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechuri, Brinda Karat and S. Ramachandran Pillai; and Communist Party of India senior leader A.B. Bardhan.