For whom the 'political' bell tolls as campaign gets into top gear in Kerala

BY SANU GEORGE   |  Thiruvananthapuram


With just a week to go for the polls, the three political fronts are sweating it out but also exhibiting supreme confidence that this time, it will be different in Kerala.

Kerala goes to the polls on April 23rd to elect 20 Lok Sabha members.

In the outgoing Lok Sabha, the Congress - both in the parliaent and the state - had 12 seats (Congress-8, Indian Union Muslim League-2 and a seat each for Kerala Congress 
(Mani) and thr Revolutionary Socialist Party). The ruling CPI-M led LDF had eight 
(CPI-M including two independents-7. The only Lok Sabha member that the CPI had in the country was C.N.Jayadevan from Thrissur.)

However, the BJP, which has just one legislator in the 140 member Kerala Assembly, is yet to open its accountA in the Lok Sabha .

Like in most elections, this time too, it was the LDF, which hit the campaign trail first and it was after a while that the other fronts could come up with their full lists What came as the biggest surprise was when the Congress decided to field its president Rahul Gandhi. from the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat.

Until then, even when quite a few opinion polls had predicted an easy victory for the Congress led UDF, the arrival of Gandhi appears to have further changed that, as there appeared to be a new found sense of excitement and happiness in the faces of many a UDF worker, while the CPI-M, looked caught on the back foot, forcing its top leadership to slam Gandhi and the Congress party for this.

State Congress president Mullapally Ramachandran, who decided against seek a hat trick of wins from the Vadakara constituency is supremely confident that it be 20-20, for the party.

"I have been travelling extensively in the state for the past few months , which started first with my state wide yathra. Then I have been covering the state as part of my election campaign . I can sense the people's feelings and it's going to be 20-20 for us," said Ramachandran.

State CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnquickly joimed the issie, an saing it would better its performance of 2004, when the Congress failed to win a single seat.

"We will come out with flying colours, like what we did in 2004. The people of Kerala know everything . They are able to see what's happening in Kerala and also in the country and they know who will be the best choice," 

"We will come out with flying colours, like what we did in 2004. The people of Kerala know everything . They are able to see what's happening in Kerala and also in the country and they know , who will be the best choice," Balakrishnan maintained.

In 2004, out of 20, it was only E.Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League who won, while the Left forces won 18 and the BJP had a surprise winner in O. Rajagopal.

state BJP president P.S.Sreedharan Pillai is pretty gung-ho "You just wait a little and see when votes are counted on May 23rd , a big surprise is waiting," said Pillai..

While the initial campaign issues centered less around the now vexed Sabarimala temple issue and more about politics, when both the traditional rivals here, Left and UDF went hammer and tongs against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for playing communal politics and giving secularism the go by, things have now changed and Sabarimala has again taken centre stage.

The reason is not difficult to find.

Aaccording to the 2011 census, of the 3.34 crore Kerala population. 1.60
crore are males and 1.73 are females. Hindus constituteitute 1.82 crore followed by Muslims (88.73 lakh), and Christians 61.41 lakh.

In the 2014 polls, while the BJP managed to finish a close runner up in just the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency and a poor third in all the rest, this time the opinion polls suggest that it could not only give a tough fight in a few buy the lotus might even bloom in at least one constituency.

Incidentally, it was none other than the wily Modi, who raked up the Sabarimala temple issue and quick to retort was Vijayan, who called Modi a liar. The Congress saw this as an opportunity to buttress repeated statement that the CPI-M and the BJP are hand in glove against the Congress here.

At the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had a vote share of 10.33 per cent, which touched 15.10 per cent at the 2016 Assembly polls.

By now, the BJP has already started making things difficult at the Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta (where the Sabarimala temple is located), Thrissur and Palakkad constituencies. It remains to be seen which of the traditional political fronts is going to get stumped by a jump in the vote share of the BJP, while in the other constituencies also, there could be negative repercussions.

With campaigning set to coclude on Sunday evening , an array of leaders. including Modi, Amit Shah, the Gandhi's and many more are arriving, to ensure that the outcome in Kerala, this time is certainly going to be different and the larger question that's being asked is: Whose party will the BJP spoil?. IANS