2019 polls will also prove to be a litmus test for Pinarayi Vijayan’s leadership
Can Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hope for a resounding third anniversary celebrations of his government two days after the results of the Lok Sabha polls are announced on May 23? This is the question that has been making the rounds immediately after the April 11-May 19 polls were announced.
Kerala will vote on April 23 to elect 20 Lok Sabha members.
State CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is pretty confident that given the performance of the Vijayan government and the manner in which the Union government under Narendra Modi had treated Kerala, the party will be able to put up a stellar performance similar to that in 2004, when the Left won 18 of the 20 seats.
“We are expecting a similar performance this time and we were able to announce our candidates first and all of them are busy in their campaign. The morale of our cadres is also high,” said Balakrishnan.
LDF convenor A. Vijayaraghavan, a former member of both the upper and lower houses of parliament, said things have reached a stage where across the country, several Congress legislators have crossed over to the BJP at some point of time.
“To take on the BJP, what are needed are lawmakers who can be trusted that they will always be there to take on the BJP. For that, the best bet is always the Left forces. Hence the need of the hour today is more of Left members should be there in Delhi when we supported the first UPA government. Also, there was a responsibility that we undertook for the good of the people,” Vijayaraghavan added.
One of the major issues that both the Congress-led UDF and the BJP-led NDA will be campaigning against the Left would be the manner in which the Vijayan government handled last year’s apex court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the famed Sabarimala temple.
Vijayan knows well that if the result goes in the CPI-M’s favour, then he will no doubt be the most powerful leader in his party. If not, given the precarious position his party is in West Bengal and Tripura, it could well be the beginning of its demise.
In the 2014 polls, the CPI-M had nine Lok Sabha members country-wide, with five of them from Kerala and two each from West Bengal and Tripura. Overall, Kerala’s CPI-M led Left Democratic Front had sent eight MPs to the Lok Sabha – one from the CPI and two Left-supported independents).
The Congress-led UDF won 12 seats.
Knowing very well that the CPI-M in Kerala has a tough task ahead, the party began its campaign in style by announcing the entire list of 20 candidates even before the Election Commission announced the poll dates.
Fourteen of them will contest on the CPI-M symbol while two would be fielded as LDF- supported independents. The remaining four seats have gone to the CPI leaving the rest of the eight allies without a single seat.
The list of candidates looks very strong as the CPI-M has fielded what it considers the very best, including incumbents P.K. Sreemathi (Kannur), M.P. Rajesh (Palakkad), P.K. Biju (Alathur) and A. Sampath (Attingal).
The two Left-supported Independents, ace comedian Innocent (Chalakudy) and Joyce George (Idukki) have also been renominated.
The seriousness that Vijayan and the CPI-M are giving to the polls can be seen from the fact that six legislators, including two from the CPI-M – A. Pradeep Kumar (Kozhikode), A.M. Arif (Alappuzha) – and Left-supported independent legislator Veena George (Pathanamthitta) are all contesting on the party symbol.
V.N. Vasavan, a former legislator, has been fielded from Kottayam, while two former Rajya Sabha members, P. Rajiv (Ernakulam) and K.N. Balagopal (Kollam) are also in the fray, as is Students Federation of India President V.P. Sanu (Malappuram).
The biggest surprise in the list is party veteran and former legislator P. Jayarajan, who has previously been jailed in two murder cases. He will contest from the Badagara seat.
State Congress President Mullapally Ramachandran, a veteran seven time MP who has decided against contesting this time, has slammed the selection of the hugely-tainted Jayarajan.
“What’s the message that the CPI-M is trying to send across by fielding such a person? This shows the pathetic situation they are in and shows a complete lack of confidence,” Ramachandran said.
Statistically, the LDF has 91 seats in the 140-member assembly and the Congress-led UDF 47 seats. The BJP has one seat and one seat is vacant. However, the voting pattern in Kerala is vastly different in the parliamentary and assembly polls. Thus, it could go either way for the CPI-M.
The writer of this story is Sanu George