By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Success seldom goes to the timid. It goes to those who dare and act. This is a famous quote attributed to India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Well, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has chosen to dare in the selection of candidates for the crucial Assembly elections in Kerala. The million dollar question is: will the bold electoral gamble pay off? The party and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government it heads are sure it would.
The confidence stems from the spectacular victory the LDF scored in the local body elections. The experiment of fielding young and fresh faces in the local body elections yielded rich dividends. The same success would be repeated in the assembly polls too, the party claims. But, then, assembly elections are an entirely different proposition. And the factors at work are different, too. So, what is the guarantee that the same strategy would produce the same results?
But the CPI(M) in particular and the LDF in general believe that the momentum generated by the local body election win would see the Front past the winning post in the assembly elections as well. In support of their optimism, LDF leaders say that the Front has already finalized its candidates’ list. On the other hand, the rival United Democratic Front (UDF) headed by the Congress and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA) have been rocked by unseemly fights, infighting and rampant groupism over the selection of candidates.
In a bold gamble, the CPI(M) has dropped 33 sitting MLAs, including ministers. Among the ministers who have not made it to the CPI(M)’s candidates’ list are Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, Law Minister A K Balan, Industries Minister E P Jayarajan, PWD Minister G Sudhakaran. This is in line with the CPI(M) State Secretariat’s decision not to consider those who had contested and won for two consecutive terms. The list, instead, features as many as 38 new faces. Eight Ministers in the current cabinet, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan are in the fray. Eight State Secretariat members are also trying their luck in the assembly polls.
The CPI(M)’s radical decision to deny tickets to those who had contested and won for two consecutive terms had triggered protests in a few constituencies. For instance, the decision to allot the Kuttiyadi seat to the new ally, Jose K Mani-led Kerala Congress(M) led to vehement protests in the constituency. The CPI(M), however, stuck to its decision. The KC(M), has, however, decided to return the seat to the CPI(M) in deference to the overwhelming sentiments of the CPI(M) workers in Kuttiyadi.
The KC(M) leaders are on record that the unity and cohesion of the LDF is more important than contesting in a particular seat. The decision has been welcomed by the CPI(M) cadres of Kuttiyadi, which is a red bastion. Many martyrs had laid down their lives for the cause of the party. And the CPI(M) has held the seat since 1987 except last year. Protests were also witnessed in Ponnani constituency. There the candidature of CITU leader P. Nandakumar had incurred the wrath of a section of CPI(M) leaders and workers, a section of whom preferred another candidate. But the party has managed to overcome the opposition, and Nandakumar remains in the fray.
The party has also fielded 12 women candidates. Among them are Health Minister K K Shailaja, Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma, CPI(M) State acting secretary A. Vijayaraghavan’s wife, R Bindu, sitting MLA from Aranmula Veena George and architect Shelna Nishad Ali, daughter-in-law of six-time Congress MLA Mohammed Ali.
The CPI(M) has, in a gesture to the new allies like KC(M) and Loktantrik Janata Dal(LJD), given up as many as 7 seats. The party is contesting in only 85 seats this time as against the 92 it did in 2016 assembly election. While the KC(M) is contesting in 12 seats, the LJD is trying its luck in three seats. Janata Dal(S) has been allotted four seats. Another long-time ally, Congress(S) has been given the Kannur seat, where its candidate is minister in the current cabinet, Kadannappally Ramachandran.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (CPI) will contest in 25 seats this time. In the 2016 assembly election, the CPI had contested in 27 seats. The CPI gave up two seats to accommodate new allies like KC(M) and LJD. The CPI list includes two women. CPI became the first major political party to announce its candidates. As many as 12 sitting MLAs, including Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan have made it to the list.
Three other ministers – V S Sunil Kumar, K. Raju and P Thilothaman have been dropped in tune with the party decision not to give tickets to those who have completed three terms. Thiruvananthapuram district secretary G R Anil and Palakkad district secretary K P Suresh Raj who have been given tickets will quit their secretary posts. Even inner-party problems or disciplinary actions have not influenced the CPI’s decision to allot tickets. For instance, although disciplinary action had been taken against P S Supal and G S Jayalal, their names, recommended by the district leadership, were cleared by the State Council of the party.
Announcing the candidates, CPI State Secretary Kanam Rajendran denied speculation that the party is unhappy about the CPI(M) giving Changanassery seat to KC(M). Changanassery, Kanam added, is not a party seat. Therefore, there is no question of the party feeling bad about not being given that seat. Kanam also said that the CPI did not lose or have to exchange any of its sitting seats because of the entry of new allies. The party is happy with the existing seat arrangement in the LDF. In 2016, the CPI contested in 27 seats. This time, the party is contesting in 25 seats as two seats went to new allies. Responding to questions on the CPI(M) giving 12 seats to the KC(M), Kanam said contesting from more seats does not mean that a party is powerful. Whether the LDF has gained from the entry of the KC(M) will be known only after the election, Kanam pointed out.
Now that the selection of candidates has been finalized, the LDF has had a head-start in election campaign. Leading from the front is Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The CM is now campaigning in his constituency, Dharmadom. Other LDF leaders have also started hitting the campaign trail as polling is only three weeks away. The LDF will, rightly, focus on the unprecedented developmental activities the Government has initiated during its five-year rule and the slew of people-friendly welfare measures it has taken.
CPI(M) state acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan hit the nail on the head by terming the LDF’s candidates’ list as one that would ensure continuity in office. Adding to the morale of the LDF are various surveys which have predicted a second term in office for the LDF. Attempts to destabilize the Pinarayi Government by misusing central investigative agencies have also failed to have any impact. The Opposition says that Pinarayi Vijayan will be the last communist chief minister of the country. There are others who predict that Pinarayi is all set to break Kerala’s tradition of LDF and UDF ruling the State by rotation and become the first Kerala CM to enjoy continuity in office. The LDF, as of now, is sitting pretty. (IPA Service)