Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala brought into its fold four small regional parties in a bid to expand its influence, particularly in the state’s Malabar region in the polls.
The move to bring in the four parties into its fold was taken at an LDF meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. The Loktantric Janata Dal, led by former Rajya Sabha MP Veerendra Kumar, Kerala Congress (B) led by former transport minister R Balakrishna Pillai, Indian National League (INL) and the Janathipathya Kerala Congress led by Francis George are the four parties which have been made a part of the wider LDF coalition. While these parties are not likely to get any representation in the state cabinet, they may be offered seats by the ruling CPI(M) in the forthcoming parliamentary polls or the 2021 Assembly polls.
Of these parties, the LJD, the Kerala unit of the Sharad Yadav-led party, is the most important addition to the LDF. The LJD was carved out of the Janata Dal (United) after Bihar CM Nitish Kumar took the decision to dump the RJD-led Mahagadhbandhan and return to the NDA fold. In Kerala, Veerendra Kumar, a former Rajya Sabha MP and the chairman-managing director of the influential Mathrubhumi daily, used to head the JD(U) before it split and became the LJD. While a faction of the JD(U) post the split remained with the Congress-led UDF, the LJD has now chosen to ally with the CPM. The LJD’s company will lend the ruling CPM large influence especially in pockets of the Vadakara, Wayanad and the Kozhikode parliamentary constituencies in northern Kerala. In the 2014 elections, all three seats were won by the Congress. As part of the arrangement, the LJD could be offered the Vadakara or Wayanad seat in 2019.
Kerala Congress (B), which has one MLA in the present Assembly, will help the LDF make inroads into the influential upper-caste Nair community especially at a time when the Sabarimala protests have turned the community against the CPM.
The INL, a small party which split from the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), is likely to be allotted a few seats in the 2021 Assembly polls mostly in the Kasaragod-Malappuram-Kozhikode belt where it has influence among the Muslim community. Although it has never been a formal part of the LDF, it has contested elections in the past backed by the CPM.
As for the Janathipathya Kerala Congress, which split from the Kerala Congress (M), it hopes to get the backing of the CPM in its fight against it’s parent party in the Idukki and Kottayam districts in central Kerala. The party will help the CPM regain ground among Christians in central Kerala. Francis George, who heads the party, was a former Lok Sabha MP from Idukki.