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Kerala: Where change is static

By George Iype
May 11, 2006 17:43 IST
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The Kerala assembly election results have thrown up no surprises. The electorate has voted the way it has been doing in the last three decades -- against the incumbent government.

The result was, thus, on predictable lines: The Left Democratic Front romped home with 98 seats. The United Democratic Front managed just 42.

In no other state in India is anti-incumbency such a huge factor as it is in Kerala.

The veteran who overcame the odds

No one in Kerala perhaps remembers what the poll manifestos of the contesting fronts -- the United Democratic Front and the Left Democratic Front.

Lotus does not bloom in Kerala

Unlike in Tamil Nadu, where almost every party promised people goodies -- from rice to gold -- no freebies were on offer in Kerala.

"It does not work here. If any political party promises such freebies here, they will be ridiculed. So there is that kind of political maturity during elections in Kerala," reasons political analyst Professor K Gopakumar.

"The governments of both these fronts are nothing great to talk about. So, people simply change them every five year," he adds.

So did the anti-incumbency factor alone cost Chief Minister Oommen Chandy his chair?

Exclusive interview with Oomen Chandy

"I am confident of coming back because my government has carried out spectacular development work in Kerala," Chandy had told during campaigning last month.

Why did his government lose?

One answer comes from state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala: "The LDF's unholy alliance with communal and casteist forces has been the main reason for our defeats."

He argues that for this election the LDF allied with parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Nasser Madhani's People's Democratic Party and caste-based groups. "It is better that the Communist Marxist party changes its name to Communal party," quips Chennithala.

Many believe the UDF would have bettered its results had it set its house in order before the election.

The Congress -- the main party in the UDF -- has always remained a divided, fighting house.

UDF stalwarts face humiliating defeat

Last year, senior leader K Karunakaran left to float a new party -- the Democratic Indira Congress. He dilly-dallied with the Marxists for a year, before they kept him at a distance on the eve of the election.

The Congress then tied up with the same Karunakaran, alloting his party 18 seats. "That has been the biggest blow for us and the cause for our defeat in this election," says Congress leader Benny Behnan.

Even in the UDF, allies like the Indian Union of Muslim League and the Kerala Congress groups have been a warring lot.

The Muslim League, which held the Muslim-majority belt of Malappuram as its bastion for decades, had to give in to the Left. Left candidates won four of the traditional League seats.

Sons of two former CMs bite the dust

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader M A Baby, who won the election and is certain to become a minister in the new government, says, "This simply means that even Muslims have lost confidence in the Muslim League and the UDF."

Despite its best efforts, the Bharatiya Janata Party once again failed to open its account in Kerala. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance fielded candidates in all the constituencies; but they failed to make a mark.

Kerala continues to remain a riddle for the BJP as it is the only south Indian state where the party is yet to get a foothold.

The mantle of leading the LDF coalition government is all set to fall on the grand old man of the CPI-M, V S Achuthanandan.

Also see:
The Five State Fight

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George Iype