By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The contrast is too glaring to be missed. While the CPI(M)-led Left De ocratic Front(LDF) has started its poll campaign, factional feud has delayed the candidate lists of both the Congress-headed United Democratic Front(UDF) and the BJP.
No wonder, the LDF has gained an initial advantage, having completed its seat-sharing exercise smoothly. The Front has launched its poll campaign. And the candidates have already hit the campaign trail with enthusiasm and gusto.
In glaring contrast, both the UDF and the BJP are still struggling to finalise their candidates as infighting is preventing the preparation of the lists in both the camps.
Groupism is particularly virulent in the Congress camp. The dominant groups, the A group led by former chief minister Oommen Chandy and the I group headed by leader of the opposition, Ramesh Chennithala are locked in a grim battle to get their candidates in.
Factionalism is raging despite Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s express directive that the only criterion should be winnability.
To cite an instance, the I group wants its candidate to contest from Wayanad, a sure seat of the Congress which is at present in its control. On its part, the A group is insisting on its candidate T. Siddique, Kozhikode DCC president, to be named from Wayanad.
Another bone of contention is the Idukki seat. While the A group favours Kerala Youth Congress president Dean Kuriakkose to contest from Idukki, the I group is backing the candidature of Joseph Vazhakkan for the seat.
The undue delay in finalising the list is creating an adverse impact, threatening to undo what the UDF leaders call the initial advantage the UDF had.
The BJP finds itself in a similar plight. Thanks to fierce infighting, the party-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA) is still unable to finalise its candidates.
The most sought-after seats are Thiruvananthapuram,Pathanamthitta, Palakkad and Thrissur. Only the candidate for Thiruvananthapuram has been finalized so far. Former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajashekharan will be the BJP candidate from the Kerala capital. Kummanam managed to secure the ticket owing to the solid support from the RSS.
As for the other three favourite seats, there are too many contenders. BJP state general secretarty M T Ramesh is on record that he will contest only from Pathanamthitta on which another general secretary. K. Surendran has also set his sights.
But from the look of things, it appears that Surendran may end up without getting the ticket. The reason: The Bharat Dharma Jana Sena(BDJS), an ally of the BJP, has staked its claim fore Thrissur. And if If BDJS chief Thushar Vellappally decides to enter the fray, – unconfirmed reports say he has agreed to contest from Thrissur because of intense pressure from BJP president Amit Shah – then Surendran will be out of the race. The latter is not interested in contesting from any other seat. This may deepen the factionalism plaguing the party in the post-poll period.
Another seat where the BJP factions are fighting like Kilkenny cats is Palakkad, a stronghold of the BJP. Here the front-runner is senior leader Shobha Surendran. But another local leader, C Krishnakumar has also thrown his hat in the ring, making it difficult for the leadership to make a choice.
This being the emerging picture, the LDF, undoubtedly, has gained an initial advantage. There is a growing feeling in the LDF camp that both the UDF and the BJP have lost whatever little advantage they enjoyed on account of the Sabarimnala agitation. Both the Congress and the BJP have suffered a severe setback with the State Election Commissioner banning the use of the Sabarimala issue to canvass votes. If the current trends hold till the election day, the LDF leaders say that the Front will repeat the 2004 show when it won 18 seats. (IPA Service)