In what could be construed as an all-out effort to win maximum number of seats from Kerala in the forthcoming general elections, the Left Democratic Front(LDF) which actually appears in the state’s emerging election scene as only a CPM –CPI partnership, has decided upon a new game plan. By fielding as many as six sitting MLAs who enjoy considerable popularity in their respective constituencies as Lok Sabha candidates, they hope to improve the presence of Communists in the next Lok Sabha.
Six MLAs contesting out of a total 20 Lok Sabha seats for a Front is not a practice usually seen in previous LS polls. The expectation of the Left National leadership about the political scenario after the General Election is the compelling reason behind the fielding of as many as six MLAs in the parliamentary polls! The big brother in LDF, the C.P.M, is contesting in 16 seats. The junior brother CPI, could get only four seats to contest. After tough bargaining, more a pre-scripted drama, the other LDF partners are left high and dry though in the process, in a way, the LDF has become an Alliance of Communist parties.
Be that as it may, what is striking is the decision to put up sitting MLAs for the parliamentary contest. The Big brother is putting up A. Pradeepkumar (Kozhikode), Veena George (Pathanamthitta), A.M.Arif (Alappuzha) and P.V.Anwar –Ponnani. The CPI has chosen C.Divakaran for Thiruvananthapuram and Chittayam Gopakumar for Mavelikkara. Putting up the best faces for impressive results perhaps.
The last General Election, which saw the emergence of BJP as a formidable force to reckon with and the rise of Narendra Modi as a colossal figure in the national politics had decimated the Left. The CPM was reduced to a mere nine seats and CPI had to be content with a single seat. Among the total nine members of CPM in the present Lok Sabha, six were contributed by the party Kerala unit. The lone representation of CPI in the incumbent Lok Sabha is also from Kerala. In these circumstances both Communist Parties can’t afford any kind of slip up in the coming election. For the materialisation of both party’s declared objectives such as the ouster of BJP from power and the restoration of Left prominence and it’s bargaining power in national politics, the two parties are expecting the election of an impressive number of candidates to the next Lok Sabha from Kerala. To achieve this they have to contest in as many seats as possible. In the present political atmosphere, the Left can’t rely upon any other state than Kerala .This is another vital reason for both the Communist parties sharing all the 20 seats leaving nothing else for the other constituent parties of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). True they were dispensable as on their own they do not have the strength to win in even one constituency.
Even though there is no legal provision which restricts MLAs from contesting parliamentary elections, the fielding of an unprecedented number of MLAs by Communist parties, raises some ethical questions too. Besides LDF, it is heard that Congress lead United Democratic Front is also planning to engage some of its MLAs in the parliamentary contests. If all these MLAs win the election, there has to be another mini assembly poll which may impose an unnecessary burden on the people.
But the CPM leadership is unwilling to heed the criticism which the party is facing for fielding its legislators in the LS polls. “Not only in Kerala, almost in every other state, fielding of MLAs in parliamentary elections and vice-versa is a usual practice. BJP and Congress are also fielding their MLAs in many states”, a CPM leader pointed out.
By asking it’s popular sitting MLAs to contest, the LDF has been able to raise the confidence level of party workers and to pose a strong challenge to the sitting MPs of the UDF. UDF stalwarts like AICC General Secretary K.C.Venugopal, Dr.Shashi Tharoor, Kodikunnil Suresh, M.K.Raghavan may all have to face a tough fight in the process, though research has already started to dig out negative and unpleasant facts of the past of these candidates which, of course, is the usual feature in elections. The media too will provide a helping hand in this task to the political parties.
Another glaring feature of the LDF candidate list is that the women representation does not show a substantial increase. Only two seats were set aside for women leaders. As part of the row over the Sabarimala women entry issue, for the last few months, the LDF in general and CPM in particular are arguing in public for the protection of women’s rights and upholding of renaissance values. For the propagation of these values they had “constructed” a Women wall along the National Highway in Kerala. Few saw any credence in these claims even then!
Well, coming out with new strategy and tactics to win are part of the features of run up to elections. Selection of candidates is the normal first step. More surprises will follow till the day of the polling. Kerala voters have witnessed such tactics many times in the past. While good candidates do influence the minds of the voters there are other issues too. In Kerala, factors like Ockhi cyclone, demonetisation, GST, the plight of the flood victims and the attitude of the state government to highly emotive issues like Sabarimala and the discriminatory behaviour towards a section of Christian believers, and above all the performance of the Modi and Pinarayi governments are definite to influence the voters. It would be interesting to watch in the coming days how the three political fronts, who dominate the state politics will explain their position on these issues.