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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Do-or-die: Left, Congress face critical contest in Kerala polls

For the CPI (M), Kerala is the only state where the party is in power. A loss for the LDF would mean the Left being wiped out from governance in the country.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: February 27, 2021 3:18:26 pm
Kerala elections, kerala assembly elections, Pinarayi Vijayan, kerala congress, CPIM, Congress-UDF coalition, kerala assembly election date, kerala news, indian express newsKerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI leader Binoy Visvam at an event on Friday. (PTI)

The Assembly elections in Kerala, scheduled to be held in a single phase on April 6, are all set to be a critical fight between the CPI (M)-led LDF and the Congress-UDF coalition as the state often votes each coalition into power on an alternate basis.

For the CPI (M), Kerala is the only state where the party is in power. A loss for the LDF would mean the Left being wiped out from governance in the country. The ruling coalition however, emerged the winner in recently-held local body elections, which it fought amidst a host of political scandals. The win is likely to be a huge boost in confidence.

Besides, the LDF is banking upon the work carried out under its regime in the last five years, under the leadership of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Another apparent advantage for the incumbent political coalition is that it has got back a faction of the JD (S), which had moved to UDF in 2009, to the LDF fold. That apart, regional Christian party Kerala Congress (M), which has been with the UDF for the last four decades, has joined the LDF. The coalition will count on KC (M) to tilt votes from Central Kerala in its favour.

For the Congress, returning to power has emerged as a matter of existence of the party-led UDF in Kerala. Following a loss in the civic body elections, many Congress leaders fear that a loss in the Assembly polls would eventually lead to the collapse of the party’s state unit and turn it into fodder for the BJP’s ‘Congress-free Kerala’ agenda.

Presently, the AICC has taken control of the state’s poll machinery and the party is banking on the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) to effectively counter the BJP and swing Muslim votes in their favour.

In the state, the UDF has raised the Sabarimala issue — the entry of young women at the shrine in 2018 after a Supreme Court verdict; a sentimental topic which contributed to the rout of LDF in last Lok Sabha elections. Also on the UDF poll plank is the latest controversy over an alleged decision by the ruling LDF decision to allow deep sea trawlers of foreign entities along Kerala’s coast. The deal has put the coastal areas on the boil. The UDF, as well as the BJP-led NDA are expected to capitalise on this outrage.

The Congress has also brought back former chief minister Oommen Chandy after its ouster at the civic body elections.

After the departure of the KC (M), UDF also has to keep Christians and Muslims, its traditional vote bank, in its camp against the backdrop of a section of Christians pulling apart from UDF citing IUML’s growing dominance in the coalition. In many constituencies, the BJP has been pushing this perception.

As usual, CPI (M) and Congress are vying with each other to win secular votes, by highlighting their credentials in fighting against the BJP.

The NDA meanwhile, debuted in the 2016 elections with party veteran O Rajagopal winning a seat. The party also emerged a runner-up in seven seats where it fought with the Hindu party Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS). Five years later, the BDJS has split and lost its steam. Although several high profile personalities have joined the BJP in the recent months, it remains to be seen if they can bring along a chunk of voters to the BJP.

Addressing a party rally in Thiruvananthapuram after the election schedule was announced, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “it is up to people to evaluate the government. For LDF, development meant a comprehensive one based on social justice. By opposing various developmental projects, Opposition has insulted the people,’’ he said.

Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said, “we are confident that people of Kerala would rally behind UDF against the LDF government, which is embroiled in corruption and scandals,’’ he said.

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