BJP emerges gainer but not the winner in Kerala bypoll Tuesday, Jun 19 2012 

O. Rajagopal on election campaign

Protest against Petrol price hike: BJP candidate rides bullock cart during campaign in the by-election from Neyyattinkara Assembly constituency in Kerala

The LDF has suffered a severe jolt in the by-election from Neyyattinkara in Kerala in June while BJP stood as the major gainer. Both the ruling and Opposition Fronts suffered erosion of votes in the election. The vote share of United Democratic Front (UDF) dropped from about 43 per cent to 40 per cent despite victory in the election while that of the LDF dropped from 49 per cent to about 35 per cent. The BJP’s vote share went up about six per cent to more 23 per cent.

The by-poll was necessitated by the resignation of Mr. R. Selvaraj as CPI (M) member of the Assembly and his defection to the Congress. When Mr. Selvaraj contested as CPI (M) candidate in 2011 under the banner of LDF, he had won a vote share of nearly 49 per cent. As Congress candidate now under the banner of United Democratic Front, his vote share has dropped to 40 per cent. So, it is a loss for all the parties except the BJP.

The BJP has gained from the communal divide caused by induction of fifth Minister belonging to the Muslim League into the UDF ministry. However, both the UDF and the BJP have gained from bigger erosion of votes from the LDF camp. This erosion should have been the effect of protest over the brutal murder of RMP leader T. P. Chandrasekharan and the issues raised by the murder.

The LDF lost votes from three groups— CPI (M) workers who sympathised with Mr. Selvaraj, supporters of line adopted by Opposition Leader V. S. Achuthanandan in the party and supporters of the party in the general population who were antagonised by the murder politics and other policies of the party. The last two groups either voted for the UDF or the BJP depending on their communal inclinations or apathy to the UDF. The UDF lost many votes to BJP as the majority community members turned away from the Front over issues like appeasement of Muslim League. However, it benefitted from consolidation of minority votes in its favour, when the BJP seen as making inroads into UDF support base.

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Positive verdict in favour of UDF in Kerala Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

Anoop Jacob

Anoop Jacob

The electoral verdict in Piravom bypoll is a positive vote in favour of the Chief Minister Ooomen Chandy. It unequivocally shows that the people want the Chandy government to continue whatever be its shortfalls.

The unity and support of various communities have indeed played a role. However, a 12000 plus margin would not have been possible because of such factors. For UDF voters have already been swayed in favour of (late) T. M. Jacob and his son Anoop Jacob who won the election.

It is ridiculous to argue that the resignation of Neyyattinkara member of the Assembly R. Selvaraj (CPI-M) had an impact on the by-election. More prominent leaders of the CPI (M) have quit the party in the past and their impact was limited. Whoever, wanted to vote against the CPI (M) had already voted against it in the 2011 elections and hardly anyone else would have joined those ranks in Piravom constituency after Selvaraj’s resignation.

However, it might be true that Opposition Leader V. S. Achuthanandan’s as a vote-puller has further diminished with the mounting allegations against him and his son and increasing realisation that he was not being sincere to the causes he expounded.

The results should be a lesson to Mr. Achuthanandan and the CPI (M). People demand honesty and sincerity and the Chief Minister is saying that the bypoll victory is the reward for his sincerity to people. But the cunning politician that he is, can he be really sincere? May be in responding to representations from people. He doesn’t have to live up to any other ideal than this as he expounds none.

LDF gets jittery Sunday, May 9 2010 

LDF Election campaign

from the failed LDF campaign for last Lok Sabha election


With smaller parties leaving the LDF
, the Font has got jittery. Splitter groups of RSP, Janata Dal and Kerala Congresses have found refuge in the UDF. Ground level support for left parties is shrinking. Indian National League (INL) is also making moves to shift allegiance after having waited long for entry into LDF. Hence the hurried decision by CPI (M) leadership to consider admission of INL and NCP into LDF. It would not be surprising, if K. Muraleedharan also finds himself back in the LDF, if Congress continues to reject his entry into that party.

With elections round the corner, Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan’s prospects are also improving. There is talk of his being taken back into the Polit bureau. This is because the party could not ignore his potential to win votes. Achuthanandan is believed to be still able to ride the wave of promises given by him to the electorate, though he had kept hardly any of them. However, he has been successful in portraying that this was because of his opponents in the party. He believes that shows like action against Tomin Thatchankary can help him to carry forward. Will the voters be fooled another time?

The State secretariat and State committee of the CPI (M) meeting here this week has the unenviable task of applying correctional policies and preparing the party for the coming elections to the local bodies.  However, given the abyss into which it has fallen, the party is not up to it.

NRI voting right could be problematic Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

Election Campaign in KeralaVoting rights has been a long-standing demand of for non-resident Indians. They have lobbied for it when politicians visit the Gulf countries for raising funds. As a result, many politicians have taken stands favouring voting rights to non-resident Indians.  However, the move, if successful would bring about multi-faced problems.

Some countries do allow their citizens staying abroad to vote. The Maldives set up polling booths in Thiruvananthapuram and London for their last elections. However, Maldivians staying outside their country are limited in number and providing for them would be easy for the Maldivian Government. Indians are in many countries and rushing electronic voting machines to those countries and getting it back in time for counting is a stupendous task.

Problems of authority:

The Election Commission of India will have no jurisdiction to conduct the polls in other countries except in the embassies and consulates of India. It would not be able to regulate campaign or monitor election expenses in other countries. Most political parties would be launching high pitched campaign in the Gulf countries, as there are many Keralites in those countries. However, not all countries are going to permit open campaigns. Where campaigns are allowed, there could be no limit to it. The Commission would not be able to prevent or take action against communally surcharged campaigns or paying of money for votes, even by anti-national elements.

Registration problems: Non-Resident Indians could not currently register as voters because the law requires six months residence in the country. Most Keralites abroad would not be able to register as voters unless this rule is not amended. Steps would also be needed to prevent anti-national elements and criminals who have taken refuge in other countries from getting registered as voters.

Even within country, where the Commission can exercise much power, registration of bogus voters is usual. If voting rights are opened to NRIs, bogus votes could swell. The chances of various malpractices too would increase, as the polling process may not the under strict vigil of officials and the media. It is to be remembered that the media could not operate freely in many countries. Democratic process without a free media takes away much of the sanctity of the process.

Whither Achuthanandan? Wednesday, Nov 4 2009 

Achuthanandan_CM

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

V. S. Achuthanandan appears to be playing a new game to regain his position in party and remain as Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, who had earlier refused to take the cudgels against Constitutional Authority of the Governor, has now turned against the Election Commission of India, another Constitutional authority.

His remarks, questioning the powers of the Commission to deploy Central forces on the polling day, would not please anyone standing for free and fair elections in the country. However, it would sure please some leaders in the party, especially those from Kannur.

Mr. Achuthanandan knows that party State Secretary Pinarai Vijayan may not be able to continue in office after the next party conference, if it adopts the corrective measures proposes by the Polit Bureau. Polit Bureau member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has been weakened by the allegations surrounding the actions of his son. So, Achuthanandan could regain his position in the Polit Bureau from which he had been ousted for indiscipline, if he plays the cards well

So, ultimately the only losers would be those who stood by Achuthanandan believing that he would take principled stands.

The curious case of highly qualified candidates Sunday, Mar 15 2009 

pollcampaignThe CPI (M) candidate list for Kerala have several candidates with an SFI and DYFI background. So, there was criticism within the party that it had gone for a “campus recruitment” ignoring other feeder organisations. There is allegation that the choice of the new faces were intended to sideline those belonging to the Achuthanandan group.

Half of the 14 candidates are new faces and most of them are in their thirties. What should get special attention is educational qualification of several of the new comers. Sindhu Joy, the SFI national vice president, who is to contest from Ernakulam, holds M. A., M. Phil and B. Ed. degrees. P. K. Biju, SFI national president who is being fielded from Alathur, is a research student at M. G. University. M. B. Rajesh, who is State president of the DYFI and candidate designate for Palakkad, is an M. A. in Economics with degree in Law. Candidate for Kannur K. K. Ragesh, who is the All India Secretary of SFI, is a degree holder in Law. U. P. Joseph, who was SFI State president, holds degrees in Politics, Philosophy and Law. Mr. Joseph is currently the Thrissur unit manager of Desabhimani, is the candidate designate for Chalakudy.

Prolonged studies and student leadership had taken their toll in years. Sindhu is 32 years, Biju is 34, Rajesh is 37, Ragesh  is 38 and Joseph is 43 years of age. Critics allege that some of them had gone for multiple degrees just to keep their positions as student leaders a la Youth Congress men who never aged. We do not have data about the academic brilliance of these candidates. But at least one of them is pursuing research. You cannot call them dishonest or manipulative. They are just being career politicians unlike their predecessors who emerged through party work and service to the workers and the downtrodden.

It has become a general practice in Western democracies to look for qualified persons to occupy important positions. Illiterates normally cannot get to any positions of power in those countries. If present crops of SFI/DYFI leaders win the elections, that would make a difference to Left politics in the country. However, time only can tell whether the result could be positive or negative.

People with high educational qualification need not necessarily be better leaders, administrators or less-corrupt. But it is becoming imperative in modern society that our leaders have good educational background.

Sparring between CPI(M) and CPI is a storm in a tea cup Thursday, Mar 5 2009 

CPI State Secretary Veliyam Bhargavan

CPI State Secretary Veliyam Bhargavan

The sparring between the CPI and the CPI (M) over the Ponnani Lok Sabha seat will end up as a storm in a tea cup. The spat between party CPI (M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI State secretary Veliyam Bhargavan is intended to hoodwink the voters.

True that some CPI leaders are not comfortable with the PDP’s virtual membership in the LDF. While CPI (M) is no more ashamed of alliance with PAP leader Abdul Nasir Maudhani, whom the BJP describe as the father of religious fundamentalism in Kerala, the CPI don’t want to appear to be too close to PDP.

However, it is notable that the CPI’s minimum demand is that the independent candidate proposed for Ponnani need not contest on party symbol, but should become part of CPI Parliamentary party on victory and be subject to party’s whip. This is not an issue over which the two parties would part ways. Both know that victory in Ponnani is a remote possibility and there is little point in quarreling over whether the winner would be in the CPI Parliamentary party.

CPI’s real grouse is that the Hussein Randathani, proposed by the CPI (M) and PDP, had refused to play ball with the CPI as independent candidate fielded by the CPI. He would become acceptable to CPI if he makes some amends.

Mayawati’s forey into Kerala Sunday, Dec 28 2008 

U. P. Chief Minister Mayawati

U. P. Chief Minister Mayawati

Bahujan Samajvadi Party’s forey into Kerala is unlikely to succeed at this juncture. Party leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati had undertaken a well planned tour of Southern States including Kerala. However, she is unlikely to find political space in State politics dominated by the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF)

Because of their ties with BSP at the national level, the Left parties would come under some compulsion to accommodate the BSP in the LDF. However, it is in the interest of the CPI (M) in Kerala that it did not create a competitor for its base among the backward classes. It would not be near impossible for the BSP to press for accommodation, especially when it comes to seat sharing for the Lok Sabha elections, since the party has hardly established any base in Kerala.

The BSP had been fielding candidates in the Lok Sabha elections from Kerala for long. However, its votes had hardly ever exceeded a few thousand votes. Its votes share has been just 0.50 per cent. (This, however, marked a three to four fold increase from vote share in the previous elections when party’s votes hardly ever exceeded the three digit figures.) As of now, she would not be able to improve upon it significantly without getting into coalition politics in Kerala.

The UDF and LDF has fairly good base among dalit communities and they are trying to consolidate that base further. Mayawati has apparently realised that the LDF would not relish her eating into their base. So, she sought to appeal to economically backward among the forward classes by speaking for job reservation for them. In Uttar Pradesh, she had been expanding her appeal to forward classes. However, her stand in favour of reservation for the economically backward classes goes against the basic Constitutional tenet on reservation which is based on social and educational backwardness.

Though reservation based on economic status would appeal to organisations like the NSS, they are not going to put their eggs in Mayawati’s basket unless she demonstrates her prowess in the State. This, as mentioned before, will be an uphill task. The kind of politics that leads to killing PWD engineer by politicians for refusal to pay political contributions is not going to appeal to Keralites. The State leader of the party A. Neelalohitadasan Nadar too lacks a good image.

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