The LDF has used the goodwill the Pinarayi Vijayan government had earned for the fight against COVID-19 to make a bold pitch for an unprecedented second shot at power in Kerala. The CPM knows this is also the time, when the halo of efficiency shines brightest around the government, to make smart political moves.
Both the Chief Minister and the CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, one subtly and the latter more bluntly, said on Monday that nothing stood in the way of the LDF returning to power. “We don't see any situation that would adversely affect us,” the Chief Minister said during a press conference on Monday when he was asked whether he would call early Assembly polls. The press conference was called to mark the completion of four years by the LDF government.
“We are doing well to be with the people. People are also accepting us in a big way,” the Chief Minister said. However, Pinarayi said it was not the time to think of Assembly elections. “We will think of it when the time comes,” he added.
The CPM secretary was more forthright. “The LDF workers are sure that we can come back to power,” Kodyeri told Manorama News. He saw in the opposition's behaviour the most convincing proof of the LDF's destiny. “It is their panic that has forced the opposition to cook up needless controversies. The Congress and the BJP are forming an axis to prevent the LDF from returning to power. The return of the LDF is also important to break this evil axis,” Kodyeri said.
The LDF is not banking on popularity alone to bag a double. It is also attempting to gain from the simmering differences within the UDF. “Certain issues are rumbling within the UDF and the chances of these exploding into a major crisis within the Front look ripe. We will make use of it when the opportunity presents itself,” Kodiyeri said.
The CPM state secretary was referring to the factionalism in Kerala Congress (Mani). Kodiyeri said these differences would worsen in the coming days. “We have not closed our doors on anyone,” he said.
Political observers say the return of P J Joseph to the LDF fold could severely damage the UDF in the high ranges, in the Idukki-Kottayam belt. The embarrassing failure of Jose K Mani's candidate in the Pala bypolls was a reminder.
Joseph had recently met Pinarayi Vijayan stoking a round of speculation. After meeting the Chief Minister, Joseph had also spoken highly about the LDF's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. In return, the Chief Minister had adopted Joseph's idea of 'homestead farming' as one of the pillars of the agriculture reforms rolled out by the government.
In fact, Pinarayi indirectly alluded to his meeting with Joseph during the presser. “Certain members of the opposition had approached me and said they fully backed all the good things the government was doing. I even told them that this was not what some others were saying,” Pinarayi said.
When he was told that Joseph had lauded the government, Pinarayi said the Kerala Congress leader had done it even before. “He takes such a stand even inside the Assembly when it comes to certain issues. You don't have to interpret it any other way,” he said.
The Chief Minister, like his party secretary, hinted that the CPM was playing the waiting game. “We are not waiting for anyone to come to our side. We are also not constantly trying to entice or appease anyone to cross over,” he said.
Nonetheless, Pinarayi said if some in the opposition were disgruntled it was only natural. “When things that should never have happened happens, it is natural for people to open up,” he said.
It is widely rumoured that Joseph was disappointed with the UDF leadership for not doing anything to rein in Jose K Mani. Joseph is said to be peeved at the failure of the UDF leadership to settle the dispute related to the panchayat president of the Kottayam district panchayat. Joseph's meeting with Pinarayi Vijayan, sources in the Joseph camp say, was a warning served on the UDF leadership.