Kerala voters keep everyone on tenterhooks

Kerala voters keep everyone on tenterhooks
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Polling will be held in Kerala on April 23.

The ruling Left Democratic Front is struggling to overcome the counter currents while the United Democratic Front is enjoying the wind in its sails.

Kerala presents a peculiar political situation. The BJP is not even the major opposition party in the state. The party president himself has not claimed victory in more than five seats. Even that remains a pipe dream.

While the BJP remains weak, two national parties – the CPM and the Congress – are locked in a battle. Both parties claim to be in a better position to counter the BJP at the centre.

The Congress and the CPM continue to shadow-box the BJP even as they try to overpower each other.

In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the BJP and the Congress are in direct confrontation as part of two opposing coalitions.

The BJP, and the Congress, is not a force to reckon with in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where regional satraps are fighting for power.

Kerala has become a unique island in the Indian political landscape after the BJP wrested Tripura from the CPM and rose to become the main opposition party in Bengal.

It was in this backdrop that veteran Congress leader A K Antony said that the Left was relegated to a spectator in this election, echoing a pet theme of the BJP.

This election season has thrown up many an instance of political rivals speaking in the same voice.

Both the CPM and the BJP brand the Muslim League as communal. The common factor in all these allegations is the minority community votes.

Both the LDF and the UDF appeal to the minority votes in Kerala by projecting themselves as a stronger bulwark against the Sangh Parivar.

The LDF tapped into that vote block in the previous assembly election.

The Congress hopes to receive support from the minorities as it shows signs of a revival and its president is contesting from Wayanad.

The Welfare Party, which contested five Lok Sabha constituencies in Kerala last time, has offered its support to the UDF in all 20 seats.

The SDPI is contesting only 10 seats where it views the BJP as weak.

The party has said it will work to defeat the BJP in the other 10 seats. The party has no candidate in Pathanamthitta, where it won 18,000 votes in 2014.

The Left camp, on the other hand, hopes to benefit from the continued support of the Muslim group led by Kanthapuram.

Election fortunes in Kerala are steered by national politics. Rahul Gandhi’s choice of Wayanad as a second seat to contest has put the state in the limelight. District-level leaders of all parties in Wayanad are elated this election season.

The CPM’s local leadership has forever complained that the state leaders never bothered to campaign in the hilly district.

But now, top guns including party general secretary Sitaram Yechury have campaigned there.

State minister K K Shylaja has been camping in Wayanad to monitor the party’s campaign.

The Congress leaders are also enjoying the sudden attention. Their party president himself asked them to accompany him to the electoral officer to submit his papers. The KPCC president has been leading the high-profile candidate’s campaign.

NDA candidate Tushar Vellappally may not be as contended. If the BDJS leader had been expecting prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to campaign for him, all he saw was Piyush Goyal and Shanawas Hussain.

The next big election issue in Kerala is perhaps the women’s entry to the Sabarimala shrine and the agitation sparked off by the Supreme Court order. The BJP hopes to cash in on the issue in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur constituencies. Even the UDF estimates that the backlash would hurt the ruling LDF.

The LDF machinery is efficiently at work to counter all these currents.

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