UDF meeting backs Antony's leadership

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JUNE 1. The United Democratic Front meeting today threw its weight behind the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, and his leadership, but called for changes in policies, perspectives and styles of functioning in order to attract its traditional vote banks that had shifted their preferences in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections.

The UDF meeting passed a resolution virtually owning up collective responsibility for the ruling coalition's total washout in the Lok Sabha elections, but stopped short of mentioning anything about a leadership change. Later, replying to a question at a press conference, the UDF convener, Oommen Chandy, said that no one had raised the issue of leadership change or a reshuffle. "I don't think the UDF is a forum for raising such issues," he observed.

The essence of the resolution was decidedly for a change of style in the functioning, but the resolution per se was silent on how it proposed to achieve the gearshift. The resolution, while fully accepting the people's verdict, said that the ruling coalition had suffered erosion of support from sections that had traditionally supported the Congress and the UDF. The main reasons for the defeat include dissidence in constituent parties, differences between constituent parties and serious lapses in the Government functioning.

The resolution said that the ruling coalition had also failed to translate to the people the various pro-people policy initiatives it had undertaken. "Even though the UDF Government had successfully tackled the financial crisis created by the previous LDF rule, besides taking new initiatives in as diverse sectors as agriculture and education, it failed to ensure the involvement of its workers and supporters in such efforts. The UDF also failed to expose or defeat the various negative campaigns of the LDF and its false propaganda," the resolution said.

"The UDF hereby declares that it would soon formulate new policies and programmes intended to recapture its lost support and bring back those who had shifted their preferences. The UDF will make earnest efforts to strengthen unity with parties and among the constituents. The UDF Government would take care to ensure the people's participation in administration, by giving priority for the development of agriculture, traditional industries, fisheries and plantation. Efforts would be made to push forward the industrial development programme and educational reforms that had been undertaken by the UDF. Fast track programmes would be formulated for the uplift of Scheduled Caste, Schedule Tribe and backward class communities. Mistakes would be corrected, lapses would be rectified so as to present a better performance in the coming days," the resolution said.

Mr. Chandy said that the UDF viewed the electoral setback as a warning, a lesson to learn. The UDF's general assessment is that the Government's functioning alone could not be held responsible for the defeat. Organisational problems and lack of unity in the UDF were also responsible for the defeat. He said that all UDF constituents had been asked to discuss at the level of their decision-making bodies and come up with suggestions for improving the performance of the Government. The parties had been asked to submit their views to the UDF convener before June 10 so that the UDF meeting slated for June 14 could discuss them.