The UDF seems to have a clear edge in Kerala

Special to Times of Oman

Much as the parliamentary poll is less than a month away, electioneering in Kerala can be said to be on low gear. Part of the reason could be that it is largely the usual UDF versus LDF battle, though a new player, RMP (Revolutionary Marxist Party) has entered the fray.

Surprises may pop up after the election. But as of now, it's advantage, UDF. The primary reason is nothing but the much-desired unity, temporary or permanent, that has prevailed in the Congress party ever since V.M. Sudheeran took charge as party chief. The group rivalry, which had been the bane of the party for the past many years, is either swept under the carpet or thrown to the winds.

The somersault by RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party) from the LDF to the UDF is, without argument, a humongous setback for the Marxist party. RSP has two MLAs. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's two-member majority government will now be a bit steadier. But more than that, it is a morale booster for the Congress at the election time.

Ironically, RSP's switchover to the Congress-led front happened at a time when the CPI (M) had been straining every nerve to poach Kerala Congress from the ruling front.  Sometime back, it reportedly offered Kerala Congress chief K.M. Mani the chief ministership if he junked the UDF and joined the LDF.

More recently, in the wake of protests over the Gadgil-Kasturirangan reports, Marxist party was planning to extend support to Francis George of the P.J. Joseph faction of the Kerala Congress if he stood in Idukki as a rebel candidate. Idukki bishop of the Syro Malabar Church had hinted that George would have his full backing if the UDF had fielded him in Idduki. It's another matter that George cannot hold a candle to P.T. Thomas, who is streets ahead of the former as a parliamentarian. Thomas had to step aside after having antagonised the bishop and the local farmers by justifying the Kasturirangan report.

The Marxist plan evaporated when Francis George was forced to bat for the new UDF candidate and Youth Congress president Dean Kuriakose. The Marxist party then decided to field Joice George, legal adviser to the High-Range Protection Council, which had been on the warpath against the Gadgil-Kasturirangan reports.

The Chandy government was, meanwhile, able to make the central government exclude the controversy-ridden 123 villages from the ESA (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) list in the Kasturirangan report, a dumbed down version of the Gadgil report. But the final order will be out only after the election because of the election code restrictions.

The Catholic Church and the strikers led by the High-Range Protection Council are not entirely satisfied with just a draft report. It was in this background that UDF candidate Dean Kuriakose went to the Idukki bishop to mend fences and ask for his blessings. Instead of blessings, Kuriakose got an earful, something which kicked off another kerfuffle over the bishop's treatment of his visitor. If some people who watched on TV channels the bishop rubbishing and hurling jibes at an MP (P.T. Thomas) and the Congress, particularly the Youth Congress, voiced their protest, they cannot be faulted. In fact, many Catholics think that the bishop had crossed the line.

One young Congress MLA crossed the line of decency too with his "detestable creature" comment on Facebook. Congressmen need to get the green light from the KPCC chief before coming out with such uncouth remarks. Likewise, one would wish that any bishop making such drastic remarks should have prior sanction from his higher authority, in this case Cardinal Mar George Alanchery or the KCBC (Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference) president.  KPCC chief V.M. Sudheeran and Oommen Chandy have ordered party leaders and rank and file to stop criticising the bishop at a time when the election is at the door-step.  Chandy said the expression used by the young legislator in the Facebook should not find place in the lexicon of a Congressman.

Be that as it may, the LDF will find it very hard to extricate Marxist party from the T.P. Chandrasekhar murder case as the court has said categorically that it was a political murder. The solar scam, which would have otherwise decimated the Congress, has now been overshadowed by the TP murder case.
For good measure, T.P. Chandrasekharan's widow, K.K. Rama, has fielded RMP's candidates in several constituencies, thus ensuring that the murder case dominates election platforms.

In the current scenario, it will be a surprise if the LDF trumps the UDF. Nevertheless, nobody can read the minds of the voters.  

The author 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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