Vol. XLIII No. 24 June 16, 2019

Lok Sabha Polls: LDF Way Ahead of Its Rivals in Kerala

V Parmeswaran

WITH barely a week left for campaigning in Kerala, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is clearly ahead of its rivals – the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP-BDJS alliance. After the withdrawal of nominations, a total of 227 candidates remain in the fray in the 20 parliamentary constituencies in the state.

For the past one month, LDF candidates and workers have been on the ground, reaching out to people. Because of factionalism and delay in announcing its candidates, the UDF was late in electioneering. BJP-BDJS alliance candidates are also in the field. But in Kerala, the parliamentary election will see a direct fight between the LDF and the UDF.

Many of the BJP-BDJS candidates are very weak, especially in five constituencies, clearly hinting at a secret understanding between the Congress, BJP and the Muslim League to defeat LDF in their bastion.

Since the beginning of the poll process, the UDF camp has been in deep confusion – first about the candidate list, followed by the nomination of Congress president Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad. Now another spectre haunts the Congress-led UDF. Its Kozhikode candidate and Congress leader M K Raghvan was seen admitting

in a sting operation to have spent crores of rupees in the last election, virtually taking the wind out of the UDF sail.

Hindi news channel TV9 had aired a video showing Raghavan agreeing to accept Rs 5 crore for facilitating land acquisition for a private company to set up a hotel. Because of this allegation against their sitting MP, a sense of uncertainty prevails in the UDF camp. All expected advantage through the candidature of Rahul Gandhi was withered away by this allegation. The CPI(M) district committee and the LDF demanded annulment of Raghavan’s candidature in the wake of the TV expose. The LDF Kozhikode parliamentary committee has filed a petition with the Election Commission, raising the demand. In the petition, the LDF highlighted the Congress MP’s alleged admission that he had spent around Rs 20 crore as election expenses in 2014 and of these, Rs 2 crore was provided by the All India Congress Committee itself. It is contrary to his declaration to the Election Commission in 2014 that he had spent Rs 53 lakh only. In this background, the LDF demanded the poll panel conduct a probe and take legal action against the UDF candidate for alleged violation of election rules.

The M K Raghavan episode has dented the image of the Congress, which is now raising the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Board (KIIFB) issue to build up a counter narrative. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan have refuted the allegations made by the Congress. The chief minister said that by raking up the issue, the UDF has been obstructing the development of the state.  All allies of the Congress found fault with the opposition leader on this issue.

Former chief minister and Congress working committee member A K Antony has been criss-crossing the state and asking the people not to waste vote by casting it in favour of the LDF. His argument is that more seats are needed for the Congress to attain the status of the single largest party. The CPI(M) shot back, asking what happened in Goa and Arunachal Pradesh were the BJP formed the government even after the Congress got majority of the seats. Another important feature is that Antony’s campaign has been soft on the BJP. Antony is one of the key men behind the Congress strategy to field Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad constituency against the LDF. Why the Congress president himself is contesting against the LDF and throwing away secular unity is the question posed by the LDF in the state and the Congress is unable to respond.