Kerala

LDF faces tough questions

An Left Democratic Front supporter touching the feet of Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan when the latter reached Kannur on Wednesday to address an election rally.— Photo: S.K. Mohan

An Left Democratic Front supporter touching the feet of Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan when the latter reached Kannur on Wednesday to address an election rally.— Photo: S.K. Mohan  

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An encouraging aspect is the near-total cohesion among alliance partners

ne striking aspect of local bodies’ election ever since the three-tier local government institutions came into being has been the agenda setting role that the CPI(M) and its allies played and gains the Left Democratic Front (LDF) could make in the process.

In 1995, the LDF rode the wave of popular appeal generated by its critical engagement with the State-level enactment following passage of the Constitution 73rd and 74th amendments. In 2000 and 2005, it could keep its flag flying thanks to decentralised planning and innovative initiatives to increase rural productivity and social sector interventions. However, in 2010, it suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

As the campaign for the 2015 polls races to the deadline, the question that the LDF may have to ask itself is whether it has been able to set the agenda for this poll and, if not, whether there are enough factors out there to help it wrest back the ground lost in 2010.

Of the three main contenders in the fray, the LDF had set out early for the elections, trying to dredge up memories of the People’s Plan Campaign and reviving participatory grassroots activism, particularly focused on solid waste management and organic farming initiatives.

However, it was thrown off its feet by the sudden emergence of the BJP-SNDP Yogam tie-up, with Yogam general secretary Vellappally Natesan firing on all cylinders against the CPI(M) and its allies.

That charm offensive that the LDF probably had planned could not materialise in full measure as the focus shifted to the Yogam-BJP alliance. But, it also gave the Left the opportunity to launch a full-throated offensive against the BJP and the Yogam general secretary, pointing to the contradictions between the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru and the Sangh ideology and targeting Mr. Natesan over the mysterious death of Swami Saswathikananda over a decade ago, besides the Yogam-sponsored microfinance operations.

It could show that Mr. Natesan no longer enjoyed the perceived immunity of a community leader and sow confusion in the Ezhava community and the fractious Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

One positive that the LDF has on the ground is the near-total cohesion among the alliance partners. Compared to 2005 and 2010, the CPI(M) and its allies are on the same page when it comes to the actual contest in the three-tier local bodies, the only notable exception being a few panchayats in Malappuram. Given the small margins that decide the outcome in the local body wards and divisions, this unity could be a game changer in many places.

The LDF may well have compensated for the Yogam-BJP offensive with its strong positions on public issues such as reservation and the many freedoms, particularly of the minorities and progressive public intellectuals, that are under attack elsewhere in the country.

And, because it begins from a low baseline, controlling just around 35-40 per cent of local government institutions, things perhaps can only improve.

But that would still leave the game wide open.



The question that the LDF may have to ask itself is whether it has been able to set the agenda for this poll.



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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 4:18:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ldf-faces-tough-questions/article7816576.ece

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