In Kerala, if it has been mostly a head-to-head fight between the Congress-led UDF and the CPM-led LDF, with BJP playing an insignificant third fiddle, the situation is sure to change this time.
The enthusiasm generated by the announcement of just two AAP candidates and the CPM’s desperation to lure the Christians and the Church show that the equations are changing fast.
The most interesting aspect of the elections will be the entry of the AAP, which hopes to field candidates in 14 constituencies. It has started the campaign by announcing two candidates, for Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, and Thrissur, the cultural capital.
In Thiruvananthapuram, where union minister Shashi Tharoor had won by a margin of nearly one lakh votes in 2009, the AAP’s candidates is Ajith Joy, a young face with an impressive academic and professional background. A rank holder in LLB from Kerala university and an LLM from Harvard, Ajith left his jobs from the IPS and later from the UN when Kejriwal formed the AAP. He always wanted to work for the people and realised that the formation of the AAP was his moment of reckoning. He lost no time in joining the party and volunteering for it during the Delhi assembly elections.
Sara Joseph is a well known writer, academic and activist. She has written several short stories and novels and is one of the founders of the feminist movement in the state. She has been a fearless critic on social issues, which also meant taking on established political parties. Her entry into the party has energised a lot of young people who share her ideology and zeal for political change.
Both Ajit and Sara had to appear before an interview panel, along with other prospective candidates, to get nominated.
The profile of the two candidates, according to AAP sources, is a heads up on the quality of people it plans to field. In the other constituencies, it will pick people with profile and character who will be able to take on the might of the Congress and the CPM and their allies as a representative of the aam aadmi. Besides the overall ideology of the AAP, they will also have localised people’s manifestoes and will focus on local issues.
Both the big players - the Congress and the CPM - haven’t publicly taken cognisance of the AAP. Instead both are trying to reach out to the minority votes which are crucial for their victory. Traditionally, the Christian and Muslim belts have always sided with the Congress and its allies, making a sweep by the CPM in the state, even during strong anti-Congress waves, nearly impossible. The Church has been suspicious of the communists and wouldn’t touch the CPM with a barge pole. And the CPM has been forced to take a helplessly secular position that it wouldn’t align with religion based parties.
However, this time the CPM has got an opportunity of a lifetime to make inroads into the Christian belt - the Kasturi Rangan report. While the Congress maintained that the Report would only curb activities of the quarry mafia and those who hurt the environment and not the farmers, the CPM joined the Church-backed agitations in the hills against the report for two reasons - one, it’s directed at the UDF and two, it is a golden opportunity to win some sympathy from the Christian homes and the Church.
The CPM, which nationally has an ideological stand on environment, found nothing wrong in fighting a report aimed at protecting the Western Ghats. The Congress, which in fact had fared better than the CPM while backing the report, is also forced to toe an anti-Kasturi Rangan line now.
Besides the AAP, another party that might cause at least pose some pin-pricks is the Revolutionary Marxists Party (RMP). The RMP’s main political plank is the murder of its leader TP Chandrasekharan, for which a trial court has convicted three local leaders of the CPM. The RMP alleges that the murder was planned and executed by the top leadership of the CPM and wants the conspiracy to be investigated. The state government has duly ordered a CBI enquiry.
If the CBI investigation brings out some early leads linking the murder with more CPM leaders, it will cause considerable inconvenience to the party. The RMP’s main impact will be creating such a displeasure against the CPM.
The third party that is likely to change the conventional voting patterns is the BJP. Observers as well as some opinion polls expect the party to win substantially higher vote share this time. Although it’s not projected to win any seat, its electoral rise will have to be at the cost of the dominant fronts, namely the UDF and the LDF.
Therefore, in the final analysis, Kerala will see a four-cornered contest in majority of its seats, which will be a new phenomenon in the state. A national survey earlier had indicated that the highest impact of the AAP in South India will be in Kerala. As happened in Delhi, the AAP could be the dark horse, which can upset the traditional equation. Add the RMP and the BJP to the equation - the CPM and the Congress have reasons to worry.
Who will be affected the most? the CPM or the Congress?
Well known Malayalam writer Paul Zacharia feels that it would be the CPM because the AAP occupies the space that belongs to the CPM. According to him, the fact that the CPM no longer represents the issues of the common people gives the AAP a big advantage. He says that the AAP may gather more votes than the CPM.
Although Zacharia’s estimate is too optimistic for the AAP, the CPM certainly looks shaky. It’s doing everything that doesn’t befit its tall ideological claims. Besides wooing the Church, it recently brought in BJP-rebels who had branded themselves as followers of Narendra Modi.
The CPM, with several failed agitations in the last two years, continues to survive by the show of strength of its cadres. Perhaps with this elections, the party will realise that cadre strength helping it win elections is a relic of the past. Meanwhile, even as the AAP and RMP are likely to split the CPM votes, the Congress is not safe from the BJP splitting its votes either.