UDF and LDF to Slug it Out
Kerala Scene – LS Election in Kerala
But the BJP is trying to grab at least one seat and increase its voteshare.
Polling for the 20 LokSabha seats in Kerala took place on April 23. Battlelines were drawn between the two main fronts i.e., the United Democratic Front (UDF) consisting of the Indian National Congress, the Indian Union Muslim League, Kerala Congress (M) and the RSP on one side, and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). The BJP led a third front with two small parties allying with it and hopes to improve its vote-share. It is doubtful if it will be able to garner a single seat. However, the biggest piece of the news is that Congress President Rahul Gandhi has entered the fray from Wayanad in the State for a second seat contest (he is seeking election from the traditional Nehru-Gandhi seat in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh also).
The Congress has fielded its candidate on 16 seats, leaving two for its long time ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). One seat had gone to Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), while the lone remaining seat went to Kerala Congress (Mani group) nominee. On the rival side, CPM is contesting on 14 seats while two would be fielded as LDF-supported independents in Muslim-dominated Ponnani and Malappuram seats. The remaining four seats have gone to the CPI. Rest of the allies have not been given any seats.
In 2014 General Elections, the CPM won five seats, CPI one, Congress eight, Muslim League two, Kerala Congress one, RSP one and two seats (Chalakudy and Idukki) were won by independents supported by LDF.
No More than Two
The Congress has not conceded the IUML’s demand for one more seat even this time. The IUML would thus be contesting on the old Ponnani and Malappuram (earlier it was Manjeri) seats. For some time the name of Mr. SirajEbrahim, son of late Ibrahim SulaimanSait, was bandied about for nomination on one additional seat. But it seems the IUML local leadership did not press the claim and is keen to keep the party contented with two seats although the IUML has a streamlined organization in the state with nearly 23 lakh registered members. The IUML has pitted the old faces E. T. Mohammed Basheer from Ponnani and former Kerala minister KunhaliKutty from Malappuram. Sources pointed out that Congress may lose several seats if the IUML is not part of the UDF, yet has been successful in keeping the IUML’s share confined to two seats. Even the lone RajyaSabha seat for the IUML has been used to nominate twice a Gulf based businessman P. V. Abdul Wahab who barely ever speaks in the Parliament.
The Congress has fielded a Muslim woman Ms. ShaniMol Usman from Alappuzha seat this time. A long time Congress member, she is one among the general secretaries of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).
Currently, LDF led by Chief Minister PinarayiVijayan is ruling the State. During the 2015 elections, the LDF trounced the UDF with a huge margin winning 91 of the 140 seats. Of these, the CPM bagged 58, CPI 19, Janata Dal Secular three, Nationalist Congress Party two and LDF-supported independents five.
Of the UDF’s 47, the Congress’s score was merely 22 while Muslim League could win 18. Kerala Congress had won six seats while another faction of Kerala Congress was successful on one seat. Even this impressive score by the IUML has not yielded any more seats from the UDF in 2019 LokSabha elections.
Godsend for the BJP
2015 was the first Assembly election when the BJP could open its account in the Legislative Assembly with success on one seat. The BJP is now trying it utmost to secure at least one seat from the State in LokSabha. Anywhere it can come closer to success is Trivandrum. It is using Sabarimala verdict allowing women aged between 10 and 50 years to visit the Sabarimala temple to garner sympathy from women voters. The party which first welcomed the verdict, took a U-turn and went against it feeling pockets of opposition against the verdict in tradition-loving sections. It is doubtful if this sympathy can translate into a seat.
The Congress too has reversed its stand on Sabarimala. Congress President Rahul Gandhi however made it clear that his party in the State had a different stand against what he thought was right. The party fearing that the BJP would cut into the Congress votebank, thought it prudent to take a stand against the verdict. However the LDF did not budge from its stand of implementing the Sabarimala verdict and provided protection to the few women activists who attempted to enter the sanctum sanctorum. The Left even organized a Women’s Wall in support of the verdict on January 1, 2019 when 3.5 lakh women formed a hand-linked chain along the 620-km National Highway running the State.
Besides Sabarimala entry, the issues that dominate the public discourse during the run-up to the election are flood and disaster management and drought and water scarcity.