Traditionally, the Kerala electorate always votes the Opposition. This time, though, the ruling cpi(m)-led Left Democratic Front (ldf) feels the voters might reverse the tradition. To facilitate this, it has decided to keep chief minister E.K. Nayanar and his geriatric cabinet colleagues out of the fray. Instead, politburo member and ldf convenor V.S. Achuthanandan, Nayanar’s bitter rival, will helm a younger team of prospects. Second, the Left has projected an image of solidarity and cohesion, kicking off its campaign even before the election has been notified.
In contrast, the Congress’ United Democratic Front (udf) bandwagon is on creaky wheels. For one, it will need the high command to intervene in the conflict among faction leaders K. Karunakaran and A.K. Antony. As a quid pro quo to allow Antony to be projected as CM, Karunakaran wants his daughter to get a constituency of her choice and/or his son to be nominated as the next kpcc chief.
The Left admits it has lost a bit of lustre as it has failed to project its achievements. It’s not ready to discount the gains from the People’s Plan, the development model based on decentralised planning. Ironically, the Left lost the panchayat election in those constituencies that were touted as showcases of the new model. Indeed, the state’s profile indicates that both fronts rely on rigid vote blocs. It’s the uncommitted sections, such as the urban middle class, that often clinches the issue in crucial contests. That’s precisely why a nervous ldf has been calling for increased privatisation of education.
This time, the minorities might go against the Left. The political violence in Nadapuram, north Kerala, culminating in the rape of a Muslim woman by cpi(m) men, is likely to have a ripple effect in Muslim-dominated constituencies. This also upset the cpi(m)’s stratagem of breaking the Congress-Muslim League axis by luring a section of the iuml leadership to the Left camp. The Church, meanwhile, also seems secure with the Congress and allies.
The LDF is belatedly playing the communal harmony card. But detractors say that if the last five years have been incident-free, it’s mainly because the Ayodhya issue set off no new flashpoints and potential rabble-rousers like Abdul Nasser Madani are in jail.
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