With the 17th Lok Sabha election process set in motion and Kerala going to the polls on April 23, it will be over 40 days of campaign for political parties, braving the scorching summer.
The LDF has initially scored with the announcement of candidates to all the 20 seats. The UDF has overcome initial hiccups of seat-sharing with the Indian Union Muslim League and Kerala Congress (M) going back on the demand for an additional seat.
But things do not end there. The decision of Congress general secretary KC Venugopal not to contest from Alappuzha, a constituency he represented, has made the Congress look for someone else. He has said his decision was owing to the organisational responsibilities in the wake of his being made the party general secretary recently. Since both party president Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are in the fray, he is forced to take care of ‘crucial party matters’.
But , the LDF has claimed that the Venugopal’s sudden withdrawal was the result of the decision to field legislator MA Arif, popular in the constituency. His presence, CPIM claims, has made Venugopal realise that a victory is near impossible, given the fight that Arif will put up.
In Badagara, the candidature of Kannur CPIM district secretary P Jayarajan should make the Congress consider retaining KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran contest again.
In Ernakulam, the going is set to be tough for Congress leader KV Thomas, who has been representing the constituency for quite a long time. Opposition within a section of the Congress to give him the ticket again, coupled with the CPIM deciding to field party district secretary P Rajeev is expected to make the going very tough for Thomas. Congress grapevine expects the party to field someone else since the opponent is Rajeev, popular and highly acceptable to people in Ernakulam..
A clear picture of the Congress candidates is expected to emerge later. As far as the UDF is concerned, it is only in Kollam where RSP leader Premachandran's name was the first to be announced and the two Muslim League candidates that things are clear. One certain name in the Congress is that of Sashi Tharoor who is aiming a hat-trick from Thiruvanthapuram.
Even the League saw some bickerings as Congress opposition to the candidacy of ET Mohammed Basheer was opposed by a section of Congressmen. At one stage, the League even considered exchanging candidates with PK Kunhalikutty contesting from Ponnani instead of Malappuram which he has been representing. But Kunhalikutty, sensing danger in such a move as he is expected to be in the Cabinet in case the UPA comes to power, put his foot down and is even threatened to pull out of the race in case the party insisted on the exchange.
As far as the BJP-led NDA is concerned, there is still no list of probables as the RSS is expected to take a final call which has left the BJP state leadership sore. The only sure candidate appears to be Kummanam Rajasekharan who last week quit the Mizoram Governor post. With several in the race and the BJP even making a vain bid to rope in superstar Mohanlal for the Thiruvananthapuram seat, Kummanam's candidacy was the result of RSS supremacy over the party leadership. The fight between Sashi Tharoor and Kummanam Rajasekharan will be one of the interesting electoral battle to be watched.
The LDF has gone out in full and is fielding six sitting MLAs. CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan asserted that the confidence level was at a high and by-elections to the six Assembly seats after the MLAs got elected to the Lok Sabha was 'certain’.
It will be a tough time sustaining the campaign tempo for over 40 days, interspersed with the Vishu and Good Friday and Easter holidays, and an exactly month-long wait to know the outcome when counting begins on May 23.