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Updated: March 14, 2014 23:56 IST

Undercurrents at play in Kerala

Girish Menon
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Both fronts manage to control pulls and counter-pulls

The undercurrents that are at play make the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Kerala quite an interesting one. The undercurrents are evident from the manner in which the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) have gone about managing pulls and counter- pulls in the run up to the elections, whether it is in terms of tectonic shifts in the relation between coalition partners or in the candidate selection process. This makes the contest in the 20 constituencies in the State unpredictable.

Usually, the LDF gets a head start in electioneering, but this time, it got bogged down by problems with some of its partners over seat-sharing. The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) delivered a stunner by severing its 30-odd years of association with the LDF and joining the UDF. The shift forced the CPI(M) to concede a seat to the Janata Dal (S), another partner. The UDF also had its share of problems but not to the extent faced by the LDF.

In handling the pulls and counter pulls of seat-sharing, the LDF and the UDF appears to have been driven by the same objectives — consolidate as many votes as possible and prevent a division. By accommodating its residual partners, the CPI(M) went all out to prevent further division in its votes. The UDF welcomed the RSP mainly to consolidate anti-Left votes. The Kerala Congress (M) was forced to give up its demand for an additional seat, fearing division in its voter base in Central Travancore.

Till January, it appeared that the LDF would have an easy run in the Lok Sabha elections. The UDF was in the dumps over the solar panel scam that found Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on the defensive. It was also struggling to find a formula that would help it set right its communal equation and get rid of its pro-minority profile. But that changed overnight with the induction of Ramesh Chennithala as Home Minister and V.M. Sudheeran as Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president.

The LDF scored a point when it decided to field two dissident Congressmen, one in Pathanamthitta and another in Malappuram constituencies. The CPI(M) tried its best to exploit the row over the implementation of the K. Kasturirangan report.

The local Syrian Catholic Church spearheaded the agitation demanding changes in the report in favour of farmers.

But the CPI(M) is unlikely to get a mileage out of this as the Church has thrown its lot with the UDF.

Nevertheless, the CPI(M)-led LDF has field Joice George, a leader of the High Range Protection Committee, in Idukki Lok Sabha seat. In Pathanamthitta, it has fielded former DCC president Peelipose Thomas, who has been campaigning against the proposed Aranmula airport project, which has met with strong opposition from the local people. The Opposition coalition has also made attempts to reach out to the Latin Catholic Church and take advantage of its unhappiness with the UDF. The LDF, it appears, has tried to appeal to large sections that are opposed to certain policies of the UDF.

Interestingly, the CPI(M) has gone in for an experiment of sorts by fielding as many as five Independents, including actor Innocent (Chalakudy) and former bureaucrat Christy Fernandez (Ernakulam). In all, the LDF has fielded as many as seven candidates belonging to various Christian denominations, but the main focus is on the Latin Catholics. To make its candidates list heavy, the party has fielded Polit Bureau member M.A. Baby from Kollam.

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