As Kerala heads to polls on April 6 to select a govt, TNIE begins its comprehensive coverage of the elections.
Will Kerala, which is known to alternate between LDF and UDF, spring a surprise? Will BJP strengthen its position? We start with a SWOT analysis of the three fronts.
Trio is united
The triumvirate of Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and Mullappally Ramachandran is keeping aside its differences to dislodge the Pinarayi-led LDF government.
If Congress leader Rahul Gandhi campaigns extensively in Kerala, UDF will have an edge. A tour by Rahul with sister Priyanka Gandhi would help UDF swing votes in its favour.
Return of Kunhalikutty
The re-entry of P K Kunhalikutty, IUML national general secretary, into state politics has strengthened UDF
Chandy helming campaign
Bringing back popular leader Oommen Chandy to head the campaign panel has given a boost to Congress workers.
Selection of candidates along ‘A’, ‘I’ group affiliations and the rebellion that follows.
Jose Mani switching camp
Jose K Mani joining LDF is expected to slice away a portion of UDF’s traditional vote base in central Kerala.
Unrest between Muslim and the Christian communities, two major vote banks of UDF, after IUML opposed 10% quota for economically weaker sections among forward castes.
Church’s fear of Muslim domination
The Church fears UDF’s return will mean Muslims occupying prominent roles with IUML cornering key portfolios, including education, where the Church has stakes. It has also aired its concerns of ‘Love jihad’ and is unhappy with IUML leader Panakkad Sadik Ali Shihab Thangal’s statement hailing the reconversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Split in LDF
Split in LDF allies — Mani C Kappan from NCP, JSS led by A N Rajan Babu and JD(S) led by general secretary George Thomas – and their entry into UDF has given it momentum.
Backdoor appointments and PSC rank-holders’ stir
Government’s failure to settle the strike by PSC rank-holders and the row over backdoor appointments and nepotism have helped UDF.
The deep-sea fishing deal signed by the government with US-based EMCC has helped UDF gain support of fishers.
Gold smuggling, LIFE mission:
The gold smuggling and LIFE Mission scam can help UDF drive home its charges that the LDF government is not clean.
The biggest threat faced by UDF, especially Congress is the candidates selection. The party has to be very careful in selecting candidates.
LDF’s free food kits
The Pinarayi government’s move to distribute free food kits, which benefitted 88 lakh families, is cited as a major factor in helping LDF register win in local body polls. To counter this, UDF has promised to introduce NYAY scheme, wherein poor families will receive Rs 6,000 per month.
If UDF retains V K Ebrahim Kunju in Kalamassery, LDF will use it to attack the front during campaigning citing the Palarivattom flyover scam.
Veterans who will not move away
The old guard in Congress, including K C Joseph (74), P J Kurien (79) and P C Chacko (74), still want to contest, blocking the way for young and new faces.
Unified leadership in front and the party. No factional feuds.
Major developmental and infrastructure initiatives in addition to welfare measures like free food kits.
Entry of ex-UDF allies — KC(M) led by Jose K Mani and LJD.
Local body momentum
The general pro-Left wave in the local body elections.
Failure to effectively counter campaigns around two recent controversies.
V S Achuthanandan, the biggest crowd-puller and most popular campaigner of LDF in the last three assembly elections, is keeping away this time.
Strong public sentiment that the Left may get continuity in office. Poll surveys also predict the same.
Early seat-sharing within the front without major disputes. Young and better candidates.
Jose K Mani
Making in-roads into Christian vote base in central Travancore with Jose K Mani’s entry.
Possible positive response from various communities after withdrawal of cases related to Sabarimala and anti-CAA protests.
Two major controversies that cropped up in the final lap — Regularising temporary staff and the deep-sea fishing deal.
Strong opposition from NSS and anti-Left sentiment among certain sections post failure to sort out Orthodox-Jacobite issue.
Mani C Kappan
Mani switching allegiance to UDF can prove costly for LDF in central Travancore.
Dedicated cadre: A dedicated cadre and grassroots-level election work involving RSS men
Money: Huge funding for campaign, Central government’s firm backing
Strategy: Gaining the confidence of various Church groups through PM-level talks
New entrants: Roping in Jacob Thomas, E Sreedharan and other prominent personalities
Internal tussle: Factional feud in state unit that often needs the national leadership’s intervention
Sobha factor: BJP State VP Sobha Surendran and her supporters yet to be taken into confidence
Chief trouble: Opposition within party towards K Surendran’s style of functioning
Limited avenues: Limited seats in the state where BJP can win on its own
Mobilisation: Prospects of mobilising large chunk of anti-LDF votes to its advantage
Love jihad: Gaining confidence of Christian voters by taking a strident stance against ‘Love jihad’
Decider: Playing crucial role in deciding winner in at least 15 seats
Share: Has chance to increase vote share considerably
Fuel: Rising fuel and cooking gas prices may hamper party’s chances
Sabarimala: UDF is making the most of Sabarimala factor as it did in 2019
Minority votes: Large-scale consolidation of minority votes .
Hindutva: Alienating secular voters by excessively whipping up Hindutva