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Left - right - Left


Despite the high decibel campaign mounted by BJP, Kerala continued to dwell in its bipolar politics, says M. Rajasekhara Panicker
M. RAJASEKHARA PANICKER | Issue Dated: June 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : UDF | LDF | NDA | BJP | BDJS | Pinarayi Vijayan | A. K. Antony | Janata Dal | RSP | K.M. Mani |

Kerala stuck to its tradition of Left-Right-Left. This time, the people threw out the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and elected the Left Democratic Front (LDF) to power. Out of 140 seats, the LDF cornered 91, the UDF 47, BJP one and an independent one. The LDF received 43.44 percent of the total 2.02 crore votes.

The heavy tilt towards the LDF is attributed to the high polarization of minority votes in favour of them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP national president Amit Shah, besides a dozen Central ministers unleashed an unprecedented campaign blitzkrieg, projecting BJP as a strong third viable alternative in a highly traditional bipolar political set up. The fear of the rise of the BJP brand of politics, saw a polarization of minority votes which finally gravitated towards the Left.

In LDF, the CPI (M) emerged as the single largest party with 58 seats, CPI got 19, Janata Dal (S) 3, NCP 2, Kerala Congress (B), Congress (S), RSP (L), CMP one each; whereas in UDF, Congress won 22, IUML 18, Kerala Congress (M) 6, Kerala Congress (Jacob) got one.

Former minister P. C. George, who ploughed a lonely furrow, romped home in a quadrangular fight, defeating all his rivals belonging to all different fronts with a convincing margin of 27,821 votes.

LDF also seems to have sailed through the crisis in the selection of Chief Minister. To avoid an open conflict, as in the past over whether V. S. Achuthanandan should contest, the party had allowed both Pinarayi Vijayan and V. S. Achuthanandan to face the electorate. Both were elected with huge margins. It was later decided to give the mantle to Pinarayi Vijayan, with the shadow of V. S. Achuthanandan looming large. The state secretariat-state committee meeting was crucial. Both Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury participated. Karat’s presence and the near total support were advantageous for Pinarayi who tamed the organization in his favour during his tenure as state secretary.

"In democracy, the choice of the people is final. We accept this defeat which we never ever expected," a stunned Oommen Chandy told the media after the results. "As the chairman of the UDF, I have a responsibility for this debacle," said Oommen Chandy, the only Congress Chief Minister to complete his full five year term with only a wafer thin majority and with only 72 members in a 140-member Assembly in 2011; Chandy has been elected 11 times from Puthupally.

"The defeat was certainly a setback for the party. We are disappointed but not disillusioned or disheartened. The party had witnessed worse days in 1967. The party could secure just nine out of 133 seats; it was a `total blackout’ in some of the regions. Then we came back like a phoenix," former Union Defence Minister and former CM A.K.Antony said.

"This is a Left wave," Opposition Leader and former chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan said immediately after the LDF victory. "The verdict is a clear indication that there won’t be any compromise on people who create price rise, do not protect women and who perpetrate violence,’’ the senior CPM leader added.

"LDF victory is the people’s acceptance of its development policy,’’ Pinarayi Vijayan said. "This is the verdict against the decay of the Congress. People have voted for the LDF with high expectations. They have placed their trust in the LDF. We will take it as our responsibility," he said.

Kerala has always had a tradition of testing fronts alternately. When the people whom they elected fail to deliver, they try the next front. This time, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) conducted a high voltage campaign projecting itself as a third option with BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), an offshoot of the highly influential Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam. However, they failed to make any substantial improvement from the Lok Sabha pools. The party however, opened its account for the first time in the assembly, when former Union Minister and BJP senior leader O. Rajagopal won the Nemom seat in Thiruvananthapuram district when he defeated LDF candidate V. Sivankutty by a margin of 8,671 votes.

For BJP, Rajagopal’s victory was a sweet revenge against A. K. Antony, who had pooh-poohed the BJP. “My victory is an answer to Antony who said BJP activists can enter the Assembly only by taking visitor’s pass,” Rajagopal said.

Rajagopal was also avenging his long innings of defeats. He had contested nine times for the Assembly and six times for the Lok Sabha. He was Minister of State in the Vajpayee government during 1999.

In 1999, Rajagopal, who sought mandate for the Lok Sabha, came second, securing 20.9 percentage of votes. In 2004, he again stood there, securing 32.3 percentage of votes. In 2011, he contested for the Assembly from Neman and could secure 37.44 percentage votes; but still could not win. During the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, Rajagopal was defeated by Shashi Tharoor of the Congress by 15,470 votes. But Rajagopal had a lead in Nemam, Kazhakkoottam, Thiruvananthapuram and Vattiyoorkavu constituencies that come under the Lok Sabha constituency.

Since then, BJP started concentrating on these constituencies.  In 2015 also, Rajgopal unsuccessfully contested a byelection at Aruvikkara, but he could raise the BJP votes from 7,694 to 34,145. At last, Rajagopal in his sixteenth attempt, has come out with flying colours, creating history for himself, BJP, NDA and the entire political spectrum of Kerala.

The UDF drubbing was so drastic that four state Ministers and the Speaker were uprooted in the landslide. Excise Minister K.Babu entangled in the bar license scam – who had won for five consecutive terms from Thrippunithura – could not succeed this time.

SC/ST Welfare Minister P. K. Jayalakshmi was defeated at Mananthavady. Labour Minister Shibu Baby John could not survive the Left onslaught. Agriculture Minister K. P. Mohananwas defeated at Koothuparamba. Kerala Assembly Speaker N. Sakthan was defeated at Kattakkada and Deputy Speaker Palode Ravi at Nedumangad.

Two of its constituents, Janata Dal (U) and RSP were wiped out. RSP, which left the LDF and joined the UDF bandwagon during the last Lok Sabha polls, suffered a severe drubbing. This is the first time after 1957 that the party has been left without even a single MLA. Its leader and Labour Minister Shibu Baby John tasted defeat, besides losing the party’s sitting seats, Chavara, Iravipuram and Kunnathur. The party also lost another two seats they contested at Kaypamangalam and Attingal. The Janata Dal (U) with three MLAs in the outgoing Assembly was also routed.

The LDF swept Kollam, and won a majority in Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Palakkad, Thrissur, Alappuzha, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram. The UDF could save its prestige only in Ernakulam and Kottayam districts, besides the Muslim League bastion Malappuram.

The UDF got 12 out of 16 from Malappuram, 9 out of 12 in Ernakulam and 6 out of 9 in Kottayam.

In eight constituencies, the LDF and UDF were relegated to the third slot. The LDF won six constituencies with a victory margin of more than 40,000 votes. In 25 constituencies, the victory margin ranged between 20,000 and 40,000 votes.

Former Finance Minister K.M. Mani won for a record 13th time from Pala constituency in Kottayam district when he defeated his nearest rival Mani C. Kappen of the LDF by 4,703 votes. The veteran leader was named in the Rs.1 crore bar bribery scam and forced to quit as finance minister last year. It was alleged that the 83-year-old, who heads the Kerala Congress, accepted bribes from bar owners and promised to act in favour of them.

For the time being, the state remains bipolar in its politics. The win also came as a soothing balm for the Left Parties who saw themselves relegated to third position in Bengal.              

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017