UDF piqued over erosion of base in central Kerala

UDF piqued over erosion of base in central Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: The United Democratic Front (UDF) is reeling under the setback it suffered in the Kerala local body polls even though its leaders claim that its traditional base is intact. As the results came out on Wednesday its arch-rival the LDF cornered more than half of the gram panchayats and most of the district panchayats and block panchayats apart from tightening its grip on almost all the half a dozen corporations.

Those who predicted a positive wave in favour of the Congress-led front are at a loss to understand how things could turn negative all of a sudden, though results showed it pipped the LDF in the municipal elections. Why did they fail to convert such a favourable political climate into votes? Well this is one question which will pave the way for further trouble in Congress and UDF. Already the UDF leadership has been facing scathing criticism from various quarters.

The defeat in the district panchayats may bother the UDF significantly. It had won seven district panchayats in 2015, but lost Idukki, Patthanamthitta, and Kottayam too this time.

The erosion of base in Central Kerala, which has always stood strongly behind the UDF, will definitely lead to some serious introspection in the front. Kerala Congress (M) chairman Jose K Mani's statement that it was a befitting reply to those who threw out of the front and shut the door on their face, will certainly haunt the UDF leadership for quite some time. Not only that the UDF also had to face the ignominy of listening to the stinging criticism by P J Joseph, the leader of the Kerala Congress (Mani) faction in its fold.

The question whether there was a misjudgment in choosing between Jose and Joseph, both rival leaders of the Kerala Congress (Mani) factions, is expected to come up for discussion before the UDF soon. The alliance with the Welfare Party and the controversies related to the tie-up with the Islamic party will also become a hot topic for internal debate during review.

Anger in Congress

Poor candidate selection and faulty distribution of tickets by Congress at various places are blamed for the debacle. The sharing of seats on the basis of factions too scuppered candidate selection. The method adopted this time was to allot the ward to the same group which had contested from there in 2015. There was exchange of seats between factions considering the prospects of victory.

The front's unity and cohesiveness was damaged by rebels in Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts. The candidate-centric electioneering of the UDF was no match for CPM's well-planned and -coordinated activities.

The misunderstanding among certain Muslim and Christian groups which always solidly backed the UDF, also adversely affected the front’s electoral prospects. The UDF's expectation to overcome these weaknesses by scaling up the allegations against LDF government over the recent scandals, could not achieve the desired results.

However, the increase of 30-odd grama panchayats compared to the 2015 tally and beating the LDF in municipalities came as a big relief for the UDF. But the UDF leadership had expected to repeat the 2010 performance when the front trounced the LDF in local body polls.

On Wednesday, Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, Mullapally Ramachandran and M M Hassan came out jointly in defence of the party anticipating attempts to put the entire blame on the leadership. K Muraleedharan and K Sudhakaran have fired the first salvo. The words of the leaders of coalition partners P K Kunhalikutty and N K Premachandran also reflected brewing discontent.

The political affairs committee meeting of the Congress to be held on Thursday is set to be a stormy affair.

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