As the campaign for the April 13 polls to Kerala Assembly draws to a close,the question dominating the highly polarised scene is which way the wind will blow as no wave is palpable in favour of either the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF or the Congress-headed UDF.
Each side,however,claims that the “under currents” are flowing their way as vast majority of voters are keeping their choice close to their chest.
Before the poll dates were declared,a feeling was strong and widespread that UDF would make a clean sweep as the state has a reputation of alternating between the two coalitions every five year. The sterling performance of the Congress and its allies in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the civic elections last year gave credence to this thinking.
During the campaign,however,the LDF has taken the battle to even the UDF strongholds across the state with Chief Minister and CPI(M) warhorse V S Ahuthanandan leading the coalition from the front.
In 2006,LDF lifted 98 seats in the 140-member House,an exact reversal of the 2001 tally. Most political observers say whichever front wins the poll,the difference in the number of seats might not be as big as the last two elections.
Realising that the going is not that smooth,UDF has also stepped up its efforts to gain power with national leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,Congress President Sonia Gandhi and AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi addressing campaign meetings in different parts of Kerala to rev up the spirit of the workers down the line.
If Achuthanandan has been the largest crowd-puller of the LDF,Congress stalwart and Defence Minister A K Antony has closely shadowed and countered him to boost the UDF prospects all through the state by addressing well-attended meetings.
This time round,Antony has been unusually unsparing in his attack on Achuthanandan arguing that the 87-year-old leader has not been able to rise above the stature of an opposition leader during his Chief Ministerial tenure and lead the state to progress by seizing on the opportunities before it.
Deflecting the UDF attack,LDF campaign has focused on the “corruption-free record” of the government and its “success” in taking care of social security of all sections of the people.
Apart from the state-specific issues,LDF also leveraged the movement launched by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare to attack the Congress.
Hotly debated issues last week included the stand of the Jamaat-e-Islami,which has influence in some pocket in Kerala,with the UDF leaders alleging that CPI(M) state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had held secret parleys with the “fundamentalist” outfit for securing its votes for LDF.
Rejecting the charge of having struck any electoral ties with the Jamaat,LDF leaders countered the opponent alleging this was an attempt to cover up their secret truck for vote transfer with the BJP in selected constituencies.
Refuting the allegation,leades of the Jamaat held they had not taken a final position on which front to be supported.
While it is normal for allegations and counter-allegations to fly thick in election season in a politically hyperactive state,basic issues like drinking water and roads are also in the focus at the constituency-level poll debates.
Always a poor third in Kerala’s bipolar scenario,BJP also entertains high hopes this time expecting to open its account in the Assembly winning one or two seats in the extreme south and north in the state.
The party’s best bet is on its senior leader and former Union Minister O Rajagopal,who is contesting from Nemom seat in the state capital,where even his rival agrees that the fight has assumed a triangular dimension.