Against The Grain
- In recent weeks, there has been improvement in prospects for the LDF
- Trouble in the LDF—following rumours that chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan had been denied a ticket—has been sorted out. The CM is contesting.
- The Left has achieved a degree of rapport with church denominations in central Kerala
- The UDF, which looked confident, has become shaky thanks to scandals and scams
As election fever picks up slowly in Kerala, there is—for the first time in the electoral history of the state—some talk of an upset. This runs against the decades-old trend of the state alternately voting in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF). This time, the ruling LDF believes it has recovered enough ground to beat anti-incumbency. Whether it’s really enough remains to be seen.
Thanks to several controversies that have surfaced in recent months, the UDF, which had been cruising along since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the panchayat elections of October 2010, suddenly finds itself in a soup. P.K. Kunhalikutty, general secretary of the Indian Union Muslim League, the UDF’s leading partner, was seen running for cover after P.K. Rauf, a former aide and relative, alleged that Kunhalikutty had bribed judges to wiggle out of the ice-cream parlour sex scandal, in which he was an accused. This has upset the UDF’s calculations, for the state’s middle class and women are outraged.
R. Balakrishna Pillai, a senior UDF leader, had been convicted by the Supreme Court and sentenced to a year’s rigorous imprisonment in a graft case dating to when he was power minister. Now, with corruption becoming a major issue nation-wide, thanks to the furore over the 2G spectrum scam, and, at the local level, the UDF’s attempts to raise corruption allegations against chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s son Arun Kumar not having the expected impact, the Pillai affair will also cast a shadow over UDF prospects.
There had also been rumours that Achuthanandan, the CPI(M)’s only leader with a mass following, would not be given a ticket, owing to bitter rivalries in the state unit of the party. But state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, while announcing the candidates’ list, declared that Achuthanandan would contest from Malampuzha, in Palakkad district, a seat he has contested the last two terms.
The LDF campaign hinges on the populist promise of rice at Rs 2 per kg for all families. The Left front is also making much of a strong stand against those involved in sex scandals and corruption cases. All this brings great pressure to bear on the UDF, which so far was assured of the pendulum swinging its way.
The performance of the Indian Union Muslim League will therefore play a crucial role, as there could be stiff competition in UDF strongholds like central Kerala: the CPI(M) has established good rapport with the various church denominations using the services of former Union minister P.C. Thomas, whose Kerala Congress is now with the LDF. With the Orthodox Church unhappy with the UDF, it’s certainly not going to be a cakewalk for them.
Senior journalist and political analyst Ramshad Syed Mohammed says, “This is the first election in the history of the state in which analysts are predicting a close fight, while in all previous elections the prospects of the ruling front would have been written off much earlier.” What is of significance is that the anti-incumbency factor against the Left government was very much a factor a few months ago. But scam after scam involving the central government as well as constituents of the UDF in the state has altered the script and brought in an air of uncertainty for the UDF.