When the exit polls for the five Assemblies can leave the Congress jubilant nationally, down in Kerala it is a dismal case of squandering opportunities and suddenly finding itself and the UDF it leads in a desperate situation of getting caught in trap they themselves set.
The Congress-led UDF floundered on the Sabarimala issue after having made surprisingly great advances on a number of fronts. Six days have passed after the satyagraha by there UDF leaders - VS Sivakumar (Congress), N Jayaraj (Kerala Congress) and P Abdullah (Muslim League) outside the Assembly began. An attempt to get to make the Government take note of the agitation saw a protest march by the students’ arm KSU in which a few of them got injured in clashes with the police on Saturday.
The UDF had gained much ground on a number of issues it raised. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala single-handedly tore apart the Government on the brewery-distillery permit issue, forcing the Government to tamely withdraw the permits.
On the Minister KT Jaleel case of nepotism, the UDF succeeded in making the Minister's cousin resign.
But when the UDF finally succeeded in making Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan break his silence on the matter in the Assembly, things again turned against it. When a list of names of relatives of ministers appointed during the UDF regime was read out, the UDF benches were literally silenced. Here too the UDF failed to raise the issue that those were appointments as personal staff unlike in Jaleel's case where it was to a top post in a Government-run entity and that too on a never-ever-heard deputation from a private bank.
It walked out of the debate it initiated on rebuilding Kerala after the flood when all know how poorly the Government has fared on this front.
The latest has been the Sabarimala issue where Congress had been simply playing second fiddle to the BJP.
When BJP usurped the protests against young women making it to Sabarimala, the feeble refrain of Congress that it stood with devotees was silenced by the deafening chants of the BJP which even led violent protests at Sabarimala.
Given that the BJP has just one member in the Assembly, the UDF used its floor strength to raise the Sabarimala issue there. This led to disruption of the House proceedings for a few days. Pinarayi with adamancy being his trait, ignored the protests.
It was then a new wisdom dawned on the UDF, a satyagraha outside the Assembly. The BJP has been running a similar show outside the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. The demands were just two - lift prohibitory orders at Sabarimala and improve facilities there.
But the UDF received an unexpected jolt from a fresh corner. Kerala High Court observed in favour of the ban orders and also said the arrangements for pilgrims there were satisfactory.
This even surprised the Government and gave Pinarayi's adamancy further strengthen to simply ignore the UDF agitation and let it fizzle out on its own which can happen very soon.
When the cat is away, mice are at play. And so when Pinarayi was not in the Assembly and EP Jayarajan was holding charge, it was agreed to have a discussion on the matter with the Opposition leader at the Speaker's chamber. But then came the next jolt, reportedly through a Pinarayi note to the Speaker that Jayarajan had not been authorised to hold such talks.
The Opposition now is pleading with Government to invite it to talks and Pinarayi continues to ignore this.
It may not take more than a few days before the UDF surrenders, despite having had several favourable conditions.