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It's a toss-up in Kerala



Special to Times of Oman

Now that voting in Kerala has ended, there is nothing much to do for various parties and politicians other than hurl vituperative salvos at each other.

With opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan having been made to sing from the official song sheet of the party prior to the elections, the usual ping-pong verbal matches in the CPI (M) seems to have evaporated into thin air.

The moment we speak of slanging matches the first name that comes to any Keralite's mind is government chief whip P.C. George who not only enjoys taking swipes at people who he thinks are his traducers. He revels in predicting things as well, not least the poll results of UDF candidates with whom he has some scores to settle.

About the UDF stronghold of Pathanamthitta where the sitting MP Anto Antony is contesting he says he cannot predict the result as Anto is the worst candidate the UDF fielded in the state.

He sounds a touch negative about UDF chances in Idduki, Thiruvananthapuram and Malappuram too as he felt the choice of candidates was wide of the mark.

Forget George and his adversarial politics, what is more important is the overall result in Kerala. In an earlier assessment, I had said that the UDF had an edge.

But towards the end of the campaign days, things seemed to have yo-yoed consonant with unforeseen
developments.

The first and foremost factor that helped LDF was the return of the 'prodigal father', Achuthanandan, to the party architecture though he is still out of the official loop.

The buzz is that he was offered by the central leadership the coveted politburo membership which he had lost due to his contrarian stands on several issues.

Whether there was any quid pro quo or not, VS went into overdrive campaigning for the LDF candidates. What shocked the UDF and his loyalists in the CPI (M) was his volte-face on several controversial issues, especially on the T.P. Chandrasekhar murder case.

He had had pooh-poohed the clandestine probe conducted by the party into the TP murder case and demanded, instead, a CBI probe owing to the involvement of an alleged international gold smuggler in the case. But during the campaigns VS changed tack and morphed into an obedient party worker expressing satisfaction over the party investigation.

The overnight somersault of VS might has caused consternation in RMP, the murdered T.P.
Chandraesekharan's party and discombobulated his widow, K.K. Rama, who had been thanking VS profusely at every forum for his support and rejection of the official Marxist line on the issue.

However, the maverick leader's turnaround unified the party rank and file just in time for the poll, something which was palpable during the campaigns. Truth be told, we cannot predict the multiplier effect of his return to the party line.

The most talked-about contest was in Kollam where politburo member M.A. Baby was pitted against former LDF minister and RSP leader, N.K. Premachandran. The latter was, arguably, the most articulate spokesman of the LDF.

He was also perhaps the most efficient minister when LDF was in power. RSP jumped onto the UDF bandwagon just ahead of the poll in a move orchestrated deftly by Labour Minister Shibu Baby John of an RSP faction now with UDF. Kollam is a parliamentary constituency where RSP roots run deep.

RSP has divulged that it had been suffering the ignominy of being crushed and marginalised by CPI (M) at every turn for several years and the denial of ticket for the Kollam seat was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Just when we thought that Premachandran would have it easy came the VS juggernaut that nullified the brownie points and sympathy gained by the former. Now nobody has a clue about the results in Kollam.

Another factor that boosted the LDF campaign was the remark of Justice Harun al Rashid against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The judge tore into the functioning of the chief minister's office, something which set the cat among the pigeons. This was followed by revelations that the judge had met deputy opposition leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan at Kerala house in Delhi and had a prolonged discussion just days before his controversial remark. Congress says it was well-timed to help LDF in the poll.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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