Kerala Assembly poll 2016: Congress led UDF on its way out?
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
People of neighboring Tamil Nadu and Kerala are getting ready to exercise their franchise to elect new state Assemblies in a matter of a week and most of them may have already decided whom to vote standing in long queues under scorching heat.
While the ruling AIADMK and DMK are being projected by media, depending on their own preferences, as the probable winners in Tamil Nadu, the media have readily accepted as the new rulers of Kerala, ignoring all tall claims of the ruling Congress party. While in Kerala the ruling UDF led by Congress is facing serious anti-Incumbency wave which automatically let the left parties to stake claims as their turn to misrule, in Tamil Nadu anti-incumbency wave against the Jayalalithaa government is not strong enough but the opposition parties, DMK inclusive, have cast suspicions about a negative poll verdict in the minds of AIADMK workers and leader Jayalalithaa.
Opinion polls are not the ultimate authority to declare final results, however.
A pre-poll survey indicates that history is going to repeat once again in Kerala poll and that against the wish of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kerala might be thinking of electing CPIM-led LDF dumping both Oommen Chandy’s developmental agenda and the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. It claims that LDF may get 83-90 seats in the 2016 Assembly poll while Congress led UDF plays the loser with 50 to 57 seats. BJP-led NDA may not open account in the Assembly. The survey conducted among 60000 voters from South, Central and North regions of the state from April 20 to May 6 assures that NDA would increase its vote share as the Front is contesting in all 140 constituencies of the state.
Much against to the claims of BJP, only in four constituencies, tri-polar contest is witnessed. Nemom, Vatiyurkavu both in Trivandrum district, Manjeshwaram and Kasargod in the north are the constituencies where BJP is positioned as a formidable but losing force. But in many constituencies, BJP candidates decide the winner as Congress going to be a loser in such constituencies. The survey found that Hindu Ezhava community led BJDS is not going to help BJP politically in Kerala as majority of the voters question the political relevance of such tie ups.
UDF and LDF leaders privately concede that the NDA has managed a triangular fight in 15-18 seats, keeping both fronts edgy on who could get hit. There are three reasons for BJP’s changing fortunes: The inevitable fatigue factor against the UDF-LDF has prompted a section of voters look for an alternative. Sections of the Hindu middle class, educated youth, Tribals and Dalits, feeling left out or turned off by the priorities of the dominant fronts, are placing hope in the ‘Modi factor’.
The unabashed tendency of certain Christian and Muslim clergymen to politically shepherd the communities — who make 17% and 28% of the population, respectively — with the help of obliging leaders of the UDF-LDF, has led to resentment among sections of Hindus. The mounting CPM attack on the BJP-BJDS pact and the Marxists’ allegations of ‘Chandy-BJP secret deal’ seems to indicate the Left worries of the damage it could suffer if BDJS poaches on LDF’s traditional Ezhava base, which account for around 29% of voters.
In CPM’s intensified campaign to projects itself as the “most uncompromising fighter of BJP,” the Congress sees a Marxists’ bid to woo Muslim voters to make up for potential crack in its Ezhava base. By aligning with BDJS, BJP is hoping to make inroads into Ezhava and Nair (15%) combination. BJP leaders argue that PC Thomas faction of Kerala Congress and tribal leader CK Janu’s outfit aligning with NDA were also signs of a section of Christians and Tribals warming up to the party in power at the Centre.
In North and South, LDF has an edge and in Central, UDF may retain its seats. In Malabar, Jamaat led Welfare Party and Popular Front of India’s political outfit SDPI may ruin the chances of UDF.
There is a subtle shift from Congress vote bank to NDA. But such shift is not evident from Ezhava cadres of CPIM to BJDS. According to the survey, UDF may lose almost seven seats due to rebel candidates.
Survey pointed out that corruption is the major issue discussed during the poll campaign and National leaders visit or their campaigns have not influenced the voters’ decisions in any manner.
Most of the voters opinioned that Chandy government’s last minute controversial decisions influenced them to shun the UDF government and liquor ban is not a major issue. 60 per cent of the people participated in the survey pointed out that the decisions taken by Chandy government before announcing the date of the election were not right and unethical, the pre poll survey said. 63 per cent of the participants believe that Chandy government is involved in solar scam. Only 51 per cent of the participants feel that LDF dons in the role of people friendly policies.
With campaign intensifying for the May 16 Assembly polls in the state, rebel candidates and namesakes are posing a threat to winning prospects of candidates, especially to those of Congress-led UDF, in some constituencies in Kerala. While UDF candidates face rebel threat the most, including on many seats they currently hold, CPI (M)-led LDF and BJP-led NDA seem to have less number of rebels as per the final candidates’ list.
The last date for withdrawing nominations ended yesterday and 1203 candidates are in the fray for 140 seats. Even though the main battle is between UDF and LDF, the NDA has made the electoral contest triangular in many constituencies. K C Joseph, state’s Minister for Rural Development and a close confidant of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is seeking eighth term to the Assembly from Irikkur, is among the prominent UDF candidates facing rebel threat. It is significant that Joseph’s candidature had been objected to by local Congress workers. However, ignoring the protest, the party leadership decided to field him.
Rebel Congress leader Binoy Thomas is taking on Joseph under the banner ‘Save Congress’. Sitting MLAs P C Vishnunath (Chengannur), K M Shaji (Azhikode), and Domenic Presentation (Kochi) are also facing the rebel threat. Former MLA Shobhana George, who was denied ticket this time, is actively campaigning against Vishnunath. Shobhana refused to budge to the party leadership pressure and said she has decided to contest this time as the party leadership “failed” to meet the promise that she would be given a ticket this time.
People have no real alternatives to choose from.
Muslim League asking maker
Districts like Malappuram and Kozhikode has Muslim populations. The Muslim League’s sway in Malappuram is crucial to the Congress-led UDF’s chances. If the past few election results are anything to go by, Malappuram, Kerala’s most populous district, holds the key to deciding who will rule the state. This time around, though, the hectic poll campaign does not seem to have had the same effect on the ground in this Muslim heartland with the community making up for 70 per cent of the population.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the political outfit of the Sunnis and an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front for 40 years, is contesting 12 of the 16 seats in the district (in 2011, the IUML had won all 12 here). The 65-year-old IUML national treasurer P.K. Kunhalikutty who is the serving industries and IT is contesting from Vengara for the second time, is considered the “political brain” of the party. The fortunes of minister in the Oommen Chandy government have been intimately linked with the IUML’s own in the past two decades. Kunhalikutty figured in the ‘ice-cream parlour’ sex scandal and resigned from the Chandy cabinet in 2005 after a victim claimed she was sexually exploited by the minister in 1996. He lost from Kuttipuram in the 2006 assembly polls with the League also suffering its most humiliating defeat-only seven legislators made it out of the 22 seats it contested.
But now, a decade later, Kunhalikutty has emerged as the sole leader in the party and the only one who matters. He says he’s older and wiser today. Kunhalikutty’s political stock went up after the 2011 elections in which he led the party to a big win and consolidated the Muslim vote bank as well. In fact, the IUML was primarily responsible for blocking the LDF’s return to power in 2011. If the Muslims had not voted for the Congress in other constituencies, the party would have lost badly,” says M.I. Thangal, a veteran politician and former district secretary of the IUML in Malappuram. Indeed, in a state where the community constitutes 26.6 per cent of its 33 million population, it would be remiss not to say that the consolidated Muslim vote is what took the UDF across the line in an extremely tight contest in 2011.
According to Thangal, the Muslims of Kerala are by and large secular, citing the large numbers that participated in the freedom struggle to illustrate his point. “All the historic symbols in Malappuram talk about how we fought against the British and how we supported the freedom struggle. Our traditions are not communal, our passions are deep-rooted in Indian culture,” says a bed-ridden Thangal, who left active politics five years ago. The ML party never took an aggressive political line even after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, leading to the emergence of splinter groups advocating a different, more aggressive tack. Abdul Nasar Madani and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were at its forefront in the ’90s, but have been marginalized since (he’s currently suffering in a Bengaluru jail, after being falsely charged variously in the 1998 Coimbatore and 2008 Bengaluru blasts cases. In fact, Madani is the target of Hindutva forces and Indian regime for initially opposing the RSS and defending Kerala Muslims while Muslim league is unhappy that Madani wants to share the Muslim loyalty). Of late, offshoots like the Popular Front of India have arrived on the scene but are yet to get wider acceptability.
Numerically, Left strongholds are restricted to two Muslim dominated constituencies, Ponnani and Thavanur. But A. Vijayaraghavan, CPI (M) central committee member, who is monitoring the Left campaign in Malappuram district, says the LDF has a “clear roadmap to defeat the IUML in their fortresses. We have been working on the strategy since the 2014 LS polls.” The party has fielded some influential local businessmen and ex-Congress leaders as LDF candidates.
So far, the Left hasn’t been able to make much of a dent because the IUML is backed by Sunni Muslims headed by E.K. Aboobacker Musaliyar, who controls 8,500 of the 12,000 madrassas in the state. Another 2,000 madrassas are controlled by the AP faction of Sunnis (headed by Kanthapuram A.P. Abubacker Musaliyar), who have sometimes sided with the Left. The rest are controlled by the Mujahideen and Jamaat factions. Kanthapuram has publicly come out against some IUML candidates.
But the IUML leadership worried about the BJP’s emergence in Kerala. The BJP is trying to divide people over trivial issues. Now they are telling us what to eat, how to dress and how to salute our national flag.” Veteran CPI (M) leader and former minister Paloli Mohammed Kutty, though, says all is not well in the IUML citadel. The Marxists have formed women squads to visit homes to canvass votes for them, targeting mainly families and the youth who are disillusioned with the power politics inside the IUML. The logic is that any gains from the Muslim vote bank should make the Left’s overall tally more comfortable in the Kerala assembly. Communists employ negative variety of Indian politics.
By and large, the Muslims in Kerala are worried more about the emergence of the BJP in national politics. They have a feeling the Congress is playing the role of a spectator and using it to coerce Muslims and League to its will is not able to protect their interests. But Muslims used to think Congress can help them.
Left parties gain as defacto effect
If the left parties capture power this time, they do so without doing any real service to the state or people. It would be just a gift from voters for disservice.
It appears Congress led UDF is on its way out, despite all its tall claims of developmental projects, while most of villages and towns are without safe water and reliable electricity. In many parts of the capital Trivandrum water supply is connected in the might for a few hours and shut down but the water they supply through pipelines are dirty, unclear and dangerous. While Congress party rules the state as well as parliamentary constituency, the assembly and village panchayat of the concerned area is with the communists. Both behave alike and both claim credit for the so-called development for corporate and rich class.
Unfortunately, the left parties without any credible vision – also seen as a close ally of the rich and corporate lords – are likely to replace the incumbent government. It has been usual tradition that these two alliances alternatively rule and misrule the state, promoting corruption and nepotism. Communist parties have long back given up unnecessarily siding with poor and common masses as they have taken the anti-Congress votes directly enriching them for granted. If the left forces come to power they not only rule just by blaming the Congress government and not doing anything with genuine intent, but also let loose violence in the state with police supporting the government overtly.
Although the poll scene in Kerala where two stable alliances –Communists led LDF and Congress led LDF- compete for assembly majority in the polls to misrule the state, just like its neighbor Tamil Nadu, the trends show the ruling UDF and its major component Congress party are on their way out and, unfortunately, the cleft parties are likely to replace the corrupt Congress-Muslim league led UDF.
Anti-incumbency wave is slowly sweeping the state, unnoticed by the usual spectators and agents of government and each party of the ruling coalition spread across the state still assure the Chandy government of their return to power. There are many reasons why Keralites are fed up with totally corrupt and insensitive government led by Oommen Chandy.
As already mentioned before in these columns, the scene of corruption in Kerala state could be seen well within the state secretariat in the capital Trivandrum where all sorts of bribery, corruption, payments in cash and deeds take place all the time as the party agents and others visit the place and do the work and share the booty.
Interestingly, such nefarious operations take place regularly without nay hindrance as the state face problems and opposition stage regular walk outs from the state assembly and strike disturbing normal life of the state by demonstrations and hartals, shutting down of shops.
The Congress government has been in glove with all sorts of mafias and even internet providers cheat and loot the public by illegally increasing the speed of the meter and not internet speed and not providing the internet 9n quantity and quality as per the paid money. These internet frauds are safe under the congress government while opposition left parties just let the loot and cheating go on – may be they also get a share of the loot.
Interestingly, all internet provider-frauds in Kerala state operate jointly and make plans to deceive the public with new but bogus schemes to loot the public because they have taken the government, ministers, officals who are supposed to monitor against fraudulences in internet sales to public into their profit ‘webs’. The internet providing frauds keep them all by providing the stuff on a regular basis.
This gives an idea about what will happen if the Left parties secure majority in the assembly and form a government as usual.
Harping on Hindutva agenda, BJP seems to have grown in recent times as CM Oommen Chandy tried to ignore its activities in the state as the usual gimmick by Hindutva forces. Now the BJP has managed to trick a greedy Hindu caste leader Vellappalli of JSS to support with its vote bank, though maybe not as vigorously as say in Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu BJP wings have been clipped by the major Dravidian parties DMK and AIADMK as they refused alliance with Hindutva forces. PM Modi came all the way from New Delhi and taking time from his busy foreign tour schedule to address a public meeting in the capital.
Interestingly, the recent Congress-Communist party alliance in West Bengal, considered as a strange bed partnership between the worst ever opponents in the parliaments and state, to wrestle power from a popular TMC of firebrand CM Mamata Banerjee, seems to have affected the poll fortunes of Congress in Kerala more than the Communists. Many traditional Hindu supporters of Congress party, who also hate left parties for their criminal politics, might now vote for the BJP, thus reducing the Congress vote banks considerably. In fact, the strange Bengal alliance have taken many Congress supporters by shock, though the left party supporters, badly seeking to win the poll do not think their Delhi leaders have committed any serious crime by aligning with Congress against which they fight min Kerala, making a mockery of politics.
Interestingly, the AIADMK candidate for Vandiperiyar constituency in Idukki district has been denied his right to contest on AIADMK ticket and canvas in Kerala and he was locked in a room allegedly by CPM people workers for contesting against communist party an outside party or being a candidate for party outside Kerala. The concerned candidate who appeared in TV channels says he has chances to win in the constituency because of Tamil population there. Vandiperiyar is located close to Kambam of Tamil Nadu and the controversial Mullaiperiyar dam falls in the constituency.
Hopefully the Kerala government would ensure his security and safely.
Clearly, Kerala with 100% literate voters have no credible alternative to both Congress and CPM for sincerely governing the state meaningfully and with commitment to people and they have to rely only on either the corrupt Congress or anti-people communist government. However, the strenuous effort of Hindutva forces to fill the vacuum n the politically active state could be suicidal for the state and the South Asia. BJP also talk about Congress corruption to win at least one seat in the Kerala assembly as a historic feat for the party. The party is full of individualistic and selfish, corrupt minded but catchy patriotism coated people waiting for power to loot eh state as it has done in Karnataka.
Kerala’s position is one of pathetic predicament Only cash flow from Arab nations would make the most of Malayali families somewhat happy because every family has members, denied jobs by Congress-communist governments in the state, known as god’s own country where lands are in the hands of rich and corporate people close to the Congress-Communist ruling class, in Arab world and sending remittances more regularly than the rains occur. Many corporate lords and their media cry loud that Kerala which had as many as 10 ministers in the previous government to get unlimited ‘resources’ to Kerala’s corporate lords, does not have single minister now and rand are trying convert some Hindus to join the BJP party to secure their interests
Kerala’s traditional bipolar electoral field has remained a forbidden land for BJP as it was dismissed as a ‘north Indian project’ with ‘alien’ outlook and obsessions. But in this round of elections, a growing buzz is about BJP, its strategic alliance with the (Ezhava caste-driven) SNDP-anchored BJDS and the potential of the 10-party NDA to emerge from the fringe to upset the electoral maths in the usual battle between Congress-led UDF and CPM-led LDF.
BJP has found the issues like Muslims, Islam, cow, Pakistan etc as catchy slogans to terrorize Hindus for their votes in the elections and the party has very religiously pursue this policy to win parliamentary and assembly polls in the country. They do not nay positive ideas for Indians and humanity at large. But Hindutva poisons Hindu minds baldy and almost permanently they lose the ability to think positively. Thus they also cease to be humans.
The blame for making India a nation of illogical Hindus who hate others, especially Muslims, leis with the senior most national political outfit called Congress party (INC) which in order to promote Hindu interests indoors and abroad and keep Muslim under Hindu control encouraged Hindutva hate politics against Islam, Muslims and targeting Pakistan just for Hindu votes.
Opening account in the Kerala in assembly or Lok Sabha polls has been a BJP dream that is shattered after each election. Politically stirred by the Modi government assuming power and trappings of power that come with it, BJP is making the most determined battle in Kerala, matching the UDF and LDF in resources and manpower for triggering a propaganda blitzkrieg.
The PM’s campaign for three days, constant presence of BJP central leaders and the 24X7 RSS mobilization advertise the all-out efforts of the Kerala BJP to consolidate votes this time than being called a ‘secret retail vote-trader.’ Cutting across political lines, there is a feeling among leaders and observers that BJP front has the chance of winning or coming second in six seats. The debate is also about the spoiler role NDA could play for UDFLDF in seats known for thin victory margins.
Congress is a corrupt party is a known fact and it unwilling to change its bribery and other corrupt practices in the state. BJP thinks it would lose Hindu support if sheds its Hindutva façade also does not want to change its Hindutva fanaticism.
As a result, the left parties are likely to be the beneficiaries of the poll 2016.