People of Kerala have spoken and spoken unambiguously. The hopes of UDF and the dreams of NDA were dashed by the Left wave. The two best aspects of the Left victory and the cabinet making that followed are the comfortable majority of LDF and the selection of Pinarayi Vijayan as the new Chief Minister. The comfortable majority ensures that the splinter parties will not be in a position to blackmail the Chief Minister as happened in the Oommen Chandy government. Keralites should feel proud that the state leadership of CPM refused to wilt under the combined pressure of media hype and a section of the PB to install Achuthanandan as the Chief Minister at least for six months.
I have always held the view that Achuthanandan’s continued popularity is partially a myth created by the media for its own reasons. Certainly the colorful language and theatrics of Achuthanandan make good TV presentation and often attract crowds but this does not mean that people were keen to install him as Chief Minister after seeing his disastrous previous stint. Whatever P.C. George may say, people of Kerala voted for the LDF with the clear understanding that Pinarayi would be the new Chief Minister. Now that Achuthanandan has been firmly installed as the KFC, Kerala Fidel Castro, on a high chair in the corner, the new Chief Minister should go ahead with the serious business of governance. Let the Margadarshak do what he does best: be the ever vigilant critic looking to spot any false step. Let us honor Achuthanandan as the sentinel of public conscience and give credit to his previous role as the Opposition Leader.
This election was about the real issues and concerns of the people. Extraneous influences like exhortations by religious leaders did not work and, probably, will have only marginal effect on the electoral choices of the people in future. Bishops of none of the Christian Churches weighed in for any of the three Fronts. The Pope of Perunna discovered that silence was the better part of valor and the limits of Kanichukulangara Pope’s bulls were exposed. The only point on which all the Moulavis agreed was that Muslims should vote against BJP and its allies.
Among the green shoots of hope for the future is the elimination of a number of splinter parties like RSP, JDU, Democratic Kerala Congress and CMP(CPJ). Add to this the involuntary self-liquidation of JSS and Kerala can be proud of throwing out some of the leaches from its body politic. It is unfortunate that this cleaning up could not be completed and KC(J) and KC(B) have been allowed to survive. I have nothing against Anoop and Ganesh Kumar but I certainly consider the individual-oriented party politics that they represent as extremely unhealthy. The same goes for CMP(A), Congress (S), JDS and NCP though their parties profess to have national aspirations.
Another green shoot is the strong disapproval of the hooliganism indulged in by both sides in the Assembly on the day the State Budget was presented by K.M. Mani. Undoubtedly Mani was as much a disaster as Finance Minister as Achuthanandan was as Chief Minister and he should have resigned in the face of credible allegations of wrongdoing. Mani just about managed to win his traditional Palai seat only because his old rival was even more unpopular than him. Nevertheless, hooliganism by legislators on the floor of the House, that too on the solemn occasion of Budget presentation, was disgraceful. Nothing whatsoever would justify such disgraceful behavior.
I am sad to see that some of the young legislators, who have shown a mature understanding of various political issues and also managed to keep their personal images clean, failed to get re-elected. Unfortunately, their constituents found them inaccessible or even arrogant. They would do well to study the constituency activities of their senior colleagues who have been elected from the same constituency repeatedly.
A good example of nurturing his constituency is Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan who got elected from the Kottayam constituency with the thinnest of majority five years ago but managed to win comfortably this time with the highest victory margin ever recorded in the history of this swing constituency even in the face of the Left wave. His clean image and humble and courteous behavior with all the people certainly helped but what made him invincible this time was his record of developmental activities implemented in the constituency. Many people speak of their vision and dreams for their constituency but very few are able to pursue schemes vigorously at all stages to get the dreams translated to reality.
P.C. George provides a different but equally successful example. He has no big projects to his credit but he is everywhere in his constituency to extend a helping hand to anybody in need anytime. The poorest of the poor of every community in his constituency know that they can approach him for help anytime and can expect a response.
The problem with many of the young legislators is that they become arrogant once they get elected and imagine that their constituents should consider themselves privileged to have them as their representatives. They forget that the people of their constituency are not as much bothered about their media presence or the grandeur of their state level roles as what they do for their constituencies and their voters. The least that a legislator can do is to be accessible to his people.
Gone are the days when people could get elected by the strength of community support alone. Nearly 10% new voters get added to the electoral rolls at these quinquennial elections and these young voters do not necessarily follow the voting instincts of their parents. They generally look at the candidates in the fray before making up their minds. It is not my case that the larger issues do not matter. They do, but equally important is the personality of the candidate. Whatever be the political climate, a legislator can win the favor of the people of his constituency if he is known to work for them unselfishly. Many political parties are still following the old practice of airdropping candidates on the eve of elections to satisfy distribution quotas. This will not work now. No doubt leaders of eminence like Achuthanandan or Pinarayi Vijayan or Oommen Chandy will win elections even without following this route because people of any constituency would indeed consider it a privilege to have such great leaders as their representatives. The problem arises when every chota leader assumes that he has attained such a stature and need not bother about his constituents.
The recent Assembly election has indeed presented a picture of rapidly changing political scenario in more ways than one and the political parties and leaders who fail to take note of this will be doing so at the peril of being discarded by the people as irrelevant.