Braving the scorching heat, Kerala has come under election fever with the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), and BJP-led National Democratic Alliance announcing their candidates for all 20 constituencies, except Pathanamthitta, where the Sabarimala temple stands.
Sabarimala temple, which has been at the centre of a communal and political storm following a Supreme Court ruling allowing the entry of women below the age of 50, could split votes when the state goes to polls in a single phase on April 23.
The LDF has given 16 seats to its major ally Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the rest four to Communist Party of India, while the UDF has set aside 16 seats for Congress and four for its allies— Muslim League (four) Revolutionary Socialist Party and Kerala Congress (Mani) one each.
While the LDF is gung-ho about extending its gains in the Assembly elections to the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-led UDF will be trying to improve its 2014 tally of 12 seats in spite of a prolonged in-party tussle over seat allocation. It is certain that BJP will be leaving no stone unturned to register its maiden win in the Lok Sabha from the state.
The NDA has fielded Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam from Ernakulam against Congress’ young brigade leader Hibi Eden and LDF’s P Rajeev.
However, most eyes will be on the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, where sitting MP, Congress’ Dr Shashi Tharoor, is in the fray for the third consecutive time. CPI’s leader C Divakaran has his own strength in many pockets of the constituency. But BJP workers feel the capital city is one of their best bets this time having fielded former Mizoram governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, who was BJP state president from 2015 to 2018.
Vadakara in the north could witness a pitched battle between veteran CPM leader P Jayarajan and Congress’ K Muraleedharan, who is the sitting MLA from Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram.
Interestingly, Tom Vadakkan who recently defected to BJP from Congress, has not been given any seat.
The BJP and its main ally Bharath Dharma Jana Sena are hoping to make some inroads into the LDF-UDF strongholds, especially with the current socio-political and communal fluidity in the state, and it has to be seen if any ‘unholy nexuses’ are at work to manipulate and influence the voters.
The Supreme Court’s verdict on Sabarimala and the state government’s “hyper-enthusiasm” to execute the order could anger many conservative Hindus, and the BJP will be looking to take advantage of the religious feelings of the majority Hindus.
Despite BJP’s enthusiasm to stage an upset or two in the state, it is more of an LDF-UDF battle out there in Kerala.