Kerala Assembly Elections | LDF confident of 1977 repeat; UDF faces leadership hitch

Despite facing a volley of allegations, including in the gold smuggling case, the CPI(M)-led front focuses on good governance, development initiatives and welfare

“LDF for Sure” is the confident campaign slogan of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the Kerala Assembly election on April 6.

The alliance is positive about a repeat of 1977, the only time an incumbent government in Kerala won the people’s mandate to remain in power. Going to the local body polls in December 2020, the Left had faced a slew of allegations, but a resounding victory instilled hopes of a return to power in the minds of Left Front workers.

In the saddle

Pre-poll surveys too projected such a trend. The Left is facing the polls with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan formidably in the saddle.

If the seizure of gold sought to be smuggled through diplomatic channel in Thiruvananthapuram had put the government in a spot early 2020, thanks to the alleged involvement of M. Sivasankar, then Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, the last few months witnessed a volley of charges raised by the Opposition, ranging from backdoor appointments to a now-annulled pact with a U.S. firm pertaining to fishing in the deep seas. But the CPI(M) has sidestepped the allegations and focused on good governance, development initiatives and welfare measures, which, it believes, will stand it in good stead.

Most parties in the Left Front have announced their list of candidates, a mix of veterans, youth and women, but not without hiccups. When the CPI(M) conceded a few sitting seats to the Kerala Congress(M), a new Left Front ally, party workers went up in arms in the Ponnani and Kuttiyadi constituencies in Malabar, while the fielding of a former CPI(M) branch member by the KC(M) from Piravom raised the hackles of party cadres there too.

A legal battle is also on the cards for the CPI(M), as coinciding with the announcement of the polls, the Customs Department filed an affidavit in the Kerala High Court quoting a reported confessional statement of Swapna Suresh, an accused in the gold smuggling case, implicating the Chief Minister and Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan in smuggling of foreign currency.

The party has accused the Customs Department of campaigning for the BJP, but the department is going ahead with its plan to interrogate Vinodini Balakrishnan, wife of former CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and Mr. Sreeramakrishnan in connection with the smuggling cases.

Troubles for UDF

On its part, the United Democratic Front (UDF) is worried about the leadership options even before the polling.

After its near-rout in the civic polls, the Congress brought back former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to the fore, which many view as an indication of the non-confidence of the national leadership in Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.

Riddled by factional feuds and defection of some middle-rung leaders to the BJP, the Congress looks disunited. Rebellion by leaders, such as P.C. Chacko who quit the party recently, has not made things any better. Voices of protest over the approved list of candidates have begun to surface even before it was announced. The alliance partners are worried about the Congress’s inner strife impeding the Front’s prospects. That the government was forced to take action on some of the charges raised by Mr. Chennithala has come as a relief for the Front.

Also read | CPI(M) expands strategy to capitalise on dissidence in UDF

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is just a namesake entity, with the BJP making it a solo show. As elsewhere, their reliance is on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“New Kerala with Modi” is the party punchline in the hope of increasing the vote share and improving its tally from just a seat in the Assembly. Like the UDF, the BJP is also trying to re-enliven the issue of entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, which it relied on ahead of the Lok Sabha polls eyeing a consolidation of caste Hindu votes. It has been able to recruit retired judges and bureaucrats, including technocract E. Sreedharan, in the run-up to the polls.

But rising fuel and LPG prices and the ongoing privatisation of profit-making PSUs remain a concern, as they are topics of discussion in Kerala.

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