KERALA

CPI(M) happy over confusion in rival camps

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Sept. 6. The CPI(M) leadership is sitting pretty as confusion reigns among the supporters of the veteran Communist, V. Viswanatha Menon, who is contesting the Ernakulam Lok Sabha by-election as an independent candidate and the Congress camp, which is fighting the election as a divided house.

The CPI(M) and the LDF have already had a head-start in the constituency thanks to the early declaration of candidature of Sebastian Paul. The sudden emergence of Mr. Menon had dealt a blow to the LDF campaign. However, the turn of events in the subsequent days has raised the hopes of the CPI(M). This does not certainly mean that the party expects the constituency to change its allegiance all that easily, but just that it sees an outside chance of breasting the tape ahead of its rivals if confusion continues to prevail in the rival camps.

The CPI(M) State secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan, told The Hindu here today that the general atmosphere in the constituency appeared favourable to the LDF. He said the party would launch the poll campaign in earnest only after the Onam fever subsided. He was confident that Mr. Menon's open soliciting of BJP votes in the constituency would prove beneficial to the CPI(M) nominee.

The CPI(M) is looking forward to a favourable turn in UDF votes on account of the sharp division in the Congress and the reported confusion in the BJP and dissident CPI(M) camp. The senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, has made it clear that he would not let matters be and that, in the reckoning of the CPI(M), would certainly bring some dividends to the LDF nominee.

The LDF also knows that this is its best chance to woo Muslim votes in the constituency given the alienation of the Muslim community over the Antony Government's handling of Marad rehabilitation. The appearance of the PDP candidate, Poonthura Siraj, might result in some of the anti-Government votes moving away from the LDF, but there was still the possibility of the LDF being able to secure votes of the sizeable Muslim population in the constituency by harping on the rehabilitation issue.

There would be effective campaigning for the by-election for only about 10 days. The electoral battle is most likely to be fought before TV cameras than on the ground and it is very likely that there would be more drama in this by-election than in similar situations in the past.

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