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.

LDF faces electoral defeat, admits Minister Balan Monday, Sep 13 2010 

Welcome to A. K. Balan

There are a few places like Chinnakkanal near Munnar where the newspapers did not have much reach. There the squatters on government land welcome Mr. Balan. (File Photo)

Kerala’s Electricity Minister A. K. Balan has finally admitted that: the LDF is not going to be returned to power in Kerala.

Well, he said it in a different way. The newspapers were unseen enemy of the people. If people continued to read newspapers, the LDF government would not be able to come back to power despite it carrying out programmes for the welfare of the people. (Mathrubhoomi, September 12, 2010).

He claimed that the Kerala government had surpassed even China in respect of developmental activities. But only if the people stopped reading newspapers could the government return to power.

Of course, Balan is not Thomas Jefferson to say: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter “(Thomas Jefferson, 1787).

Nor is he a democrat like Nehru who said: “I would rather have a completely free Press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated Press.” (Speech at the Newspaper Editor’s Conference. 3/12/1950).

He is a communist who had for long wished that the dictatorship of the proletariat, as practiced in China, could be established in India.  But India embraced democracy.  As a consequence, he could not wish away the Press or keep them under control as in China.

So, defeat of the LDF has become a certainty in Kerala with the newspapers flourishing and free to write anything about the contributions of the government to the masses. It has been encouraging lotteries and encroachment of land as a means to become rich quick and toddy shops and bars for a kick.  The newspapers portray them as the opium of the masses. The people do not see that their real enemies are the media and not liquor barons and lottery distributors. They had turned the people against the government at Kinalur, Attappady, Kannur, Kochi and several other places where the government had planned developmental projects.

The media even fail to see the advances made by Kerala over China. While the Chinese could not take up construction of the Vizhinjam International Transshipment Terminal owing to conspiracy by the Central government, the State government itself has now decided  to take up the construction of the road to the proposed project site. The work has been inaugurated though it is yet to start. The Chinese could not even win the contract for building the terminal while the State government is now busy awarding the contracts for building the roads to the State’s own PWD contractors.

LDF’s new strategy Thursday, Jun 3 2010 

In an earlier posting, KeralaViews wrote about LDF getting jittery over its electoral prospects. That jittery phase is almost over and the LDF has started drawing up strategies carefully to regain its lost ground. It may be a bit surprising that the first indication of this had come from the Chief Minister V. S. Achuthandnan, despite his rout in the party.

He said that communalism is growing in the Christian and Muslim community. Neutral observers may regard it as a statement of fact. However, Achuthanandan has stated that now just to endear himself to the majority community.

The strategic shift to woo the majority community over earlier attempts to woo the Muslims by even giving in to fundamentalism, however, leaves the party with baggage from the past. The PDP has to be discarded. However, it is yet to be seen whether the party would abandon all those who had helped it in the past and probe all the fundamentalist activities that had taken place in Malappuram and other districts to the root. The Indian National League has already sensed the drift and decided to call it a day. It would be leaving the LDF after a 16-year old liaison.

The CPI (M)’s attempts to woo the Christian community were a stalled effort for long. The community had voted overwhelmingly against the LDF in the Lok Sabha elections. Now that the Kerala Congress has left the camp, the party has virtually severed links with the community. The Kerala Congress faction led by P. C. Thomas could only be a liability in carrying forward with its new strategy. Mr. Thomas was a person who had been debarred from contesting the elections for the next three years for openly using communal card in the election campaign. Hence, the reluctance to grant Ministerial berth to the party.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, many in the Ezhava community had voted against the LDF because of its links with the PDP and other factors. The LDF can now hope to regain some of these votes through the new strategy. (It has already lost minority votes and may lose some more. Yet a net gain could be expected.)

The strategy may also help the State. The political protection that extremists got in the past may dissipate. As the LDF distances itself from minority communalism, the UDF would not be compelled to cater to communalists and fundamentalists. This is already showing through its resistance to bargaining by Kerala Congress. The Muslim League had to abandon talks with the Jama-ate-Islami.

However, the new strategy may not yet save the LDF from impending defeat in the coming elections. Their failure to govern and the riches of the CPI(M) and the corruption that goes with it is indeed a heavy baggage.

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.

Kerala’s endangered political parties Friday, Apr 30 2010 

Kerala Congress leader P. J. Joseph

P. J. Joseph

The decision of the Kerala Congress led by P. J. Joseph to quit the Left Democratic Front comes as no surprise. Nor is the opposition to its merger with the Kerala Congress (M) in the United Democratic Front.

The Church:
The move follows total disenchantment of the Church with the LDF dispensation. The Kerala Congress has been told in no uncertain terms by Church leaders that it would not find support if it contested the elections from the LDF camp. So the hurried decisions to decamp. The LDF too is not keen to press the Kerala Congress to remain in the Front as the party would be worthless without the ability to pull-in Christian votes. So, this is divorce by mutual consent despite CPI (M)’s accusations of betrayal.

The Kerala Congress led by P. C. George has already found refuge in the Kerala Congress (M) though latter’s leader K. M. Mani was the bête noire of George for long. Another Kerala Congress group led by R. Balakrishna Pillai is contemplating admission to the Congress. The Jacob group is back in the UDF after some dilly-dallying with the LDF.

The perception that the electoral prospects of the LDF are dim for the coming elections is an added reason for constituents quitting the LDF. Even CPI would like to quit if it had an option.

Extinction of species:
The larger picture is quiet depressing for small political parties of Kerala. Kerala has seen extinction of several parties such as the SSP, KSP, KTP, PSP, NDP and SRP. The Democratic Indira Congress led by K. Muraleedharan had to immolate itself and seek refuge in the NCP. Now, Muraleedharan has quit the NCP too and is waiting at the door steps of the Congress for entry.

The RSP splinter group in the UDF has found accommodation in the JSS led by K. R. Gouriamma. But the question is whither JSS after Gouriamma. The Congress (S), Janata Dal factions, RSP and even the CPI have also become threatened species in Kerala politics.

Bereft of ideology:
Regional parties such as the Kerala Congresses are losing ground in Kerala, bereft of any ideology or agenda other than capturing or staying in power. However, united, the Kerala Congress is bound to improve its electoral position in the coming Assembly election. Otherwise, leaders such as Mani, P. C. George, Joseph and Mons would have found the going tough in their constituencies.

Trouble for Congress:
The Congress will do better not to spare any additional seats for the United Kerala Congress. It is seeking to improve its bargaining position during seat division by allowing the entry of Balakrishna Pillai and his son into the party. Muraleedharan would also eventually find a place in the Congress if the situation gets tough.

CPI (M) and terrorists Wednesday, Dec 16 2009 

AKG CentreIt is stated policy of the CPI (M), or for that matter any of the mainstream political parties, that they would have no truck with extremist outfits and terrorists. However, in practice, this may not be so.

There is little doubt that both the UDF and LDF had hobnobbed with extremists as part vote bank politics. As a result, extremists could take deeper roots in districts such as Malappuram. The network is deeper than that had come to light so far. However, the police, under political pressure, is still reluctant to strike at those who aided the network to take deep roots.

Now with media reporting about Soofia Maudani’s alleged involvement in the Kalamassery bus burning case and unearthing of part of the terrorist network in the State, it has become difficult for political parties in the State to openly associate with Abdul Nasir Maudani’s People’s Democratic Party. However, the CPI (M) is still in two minds with party State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Minister V. S.Achuthanandan leading the opposing camps. (What a fall for a communist party!)

It is to be remembered that the State Assembly had passed a resolution seeking the release of Maudani from Coimbatore Central Jail. Achuthanandan had gone to Chennai to meet the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and plead for Maudani. The cost that Tamil Nadu extracted was the Assembly resolution in favour of release of Neyyar waters to Tamil Nadu.

So, the promise of any politician that they would not have any truck with extremist organisations in future is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Eternal vigilance by the public would only ensure that the mainstream political parties would not stray into extremist camps.

Related post:

Terrorism: Kerala could be a sitting duck

LDF seeing reason Monday, Jun 15 2009 

The LDF is seeing reason. However, it is still far from convinced that the Governor R. S. Gavai did his constitutional duty.

Egged by parties such as the CPI and RSP, the CPI (M) has resolved itself to take the legal course in the SNC Lavalin case win which party State secretary Pinarai Vijayan is the seventh accused. They still say that the Governor acted without authority. According to the CPI (M), the Governor is an official of the Central Government. If it cared to look at the Constitution, it can be seen that the Governor is not an official but a Constitutional authority and Supreme Court verdicts show that he had discretionary powers to allow the prosecution of Mr. Vijayan disregarding the opinion of the Cabinet.

All this shows that the LDF is far from redeeming itself after the crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. Though they acknowledge that the SNC Lavalin case played a role in their losing public support, they are unwilling to change their policies. Instead, they are trying to hoodwink the public by raising technicalities of the Governor’s decision.

It is also notable that a section of the leaders in both the CPI and the RSP is in favour of the line of official faction of the CPI (M). This is suppressing a rebellion by the others.

UDF imposes another hartal on the people Wednesday, May 6 2009 

The Congress led United Democratic Front in Kerala is imposing another hartal on the people for its own failures.

The hartal is in protest against the Cabinet’s recommendation to the Governor against prosecution of the CPI (M) State secretary Pinarai Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case. The case pertains to the period when Pinarai was the Power Minister in the LDF Cabinet that came to power a decade ago. After that, the UDF had ruled the State for five years.

Five years was enough time for the government to conclude an investigation and permit prosecution. But the UDF Government was keen on withdrawing the Palmolein corruption case against Congress leader K. Karunakaran rather than pursuing the case against Pinarai, especially when the present Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy was the Chief Minister.

After the investigation was entrusted to the CBI, the Congress had been in power at the Centre. However, the CBI sat on the investigation as along as the CPI (M) was supporting the Government at the Centre. Then, it acted and sought sanction from the Governor for the prosecution, which he referred to the Government.

The Advocate General, who is a political nominee of the CPI (M) has given a legal opinion against prosecution despite the CBI listing Pinarai as the ninth accused after an investigation supervised by the courts. The CPI (M) intervened to force the decision by the Cabinet against feeble objections raised by the Chief Minister.

The case has never been vigourously by the Congress. Now, in view of media criticism about its dilly dallying, the party is imposing another hartal on the people. Thus both the UDF and LDF becoming party to subversion of rule of the law in the State.

Next Page »