Kerala Election Bulletin: Candidate selection continues to be a tough task for political parties

Kerala Poll Buzz

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The Big Story: Parties Face Candidate Selection Troubles

Political parties are in the final phase of candidate selection in Kerala.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) appears to have finalised most of its candidates on Friday. The party will field 81 candidates this time while its coalition partners in the Left Deomocratic Front (LDF) will contest in the remaining 59 seats.

CPM has not officially announced the nominees so far, but media reports suggested that it will strictly adhere to the two-term policy - no seats for those who represented a constituency for two consecutive terms - which will keep 23 legislators and five ministers out of the poll fray.

But it has reportedly relaxed its decision to deny tickets to those who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and allow P Rajeev, V N Vasavan, K N Balagopal and M B Rajesh to seek people’s mandate.

CPM has the habit of announcing the candidates well ahead of its rivals.

In 2019, it finalised the candidates for the Lok Sabha election a day before the Election Commission announced the polling date even as Congress and BJP had been struggling to finalise their nominees.

The party’s social media wing had taken a dig at rivals with a Facebook post: “Is your infighting over? Our team is ready.”

The party, however, had failed to reap the early bird advantage as it managed to win only one out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats.

The notable omission from CPM’s probable candidates’ list for 2021 is P Jayarajan, who once led the party from the front in politically-volatile Kannur district. He had survived the Sangh Parivar attack on his life in 1999. Jayarajan had served as CPM’s district chief for nine years until he was named the candidate for the Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency in 2019. He eventually lost to Congress’ K Muraleedharan by 84,663 votes.

P Jayarajan
P Jayarajan.

The seat denial has angered party workers and they staged impromptu protest marches in several parts of Kannur district. Kannur District Sports Council vice-president Dheeraj Kumar quit his post in protest on Saturday.

But what may worry the party leadership more is the social media backlash. Angry reactions, believed to have been from CPM sympathisers, flooded Jayarajan’s unofficial fan page on Facebook, PJ Army that has more than 50,000 followers. Apart from criticising the leadership, the commentators mocked the reported move to field wives of party leaders A K Balan and V S Vijayaraghan and actor Mukesh.

The CPM had faced a similar backlash in 2006 when it denied ticket to veteran party leader V S Achuthanandan. In the face of state-wide protests, the party reversed the decision and fielded him from the Malampuzha constituency. Achuthanandan went on to become chief minister after LDF’s victory.

VS Achuthanandan
VS Achuthanandan

VS had kept mum when the party workers took to the streets. But P Jayarajan showed that he is a loyal party worker by denouncing the protests in no uncertain terms.

He urged party workers and supporters to stay away from protests and social media campaigns.

“The party is in the process of finalising candidates. The party will decide the responsibilities for the workers. Those outside the party could not influence the decision. So I request party workers to desist from discussions on my candidature,” he wrote on Facebook.

He also denounced PJ Army for the social media campaign. “I had earlier stated that PJ Army has no connection with me. I am warning them of legal action if they continue to campaign against the party using my photographs,” he added.

The incident proves that candidate selection is turning out to be a thorny issue for all political parties.

Congress is facing a serious crisis in Palakkad district with senior party leader A V Gopinath raising a banner of revolt for denying him ticket for the Assembly election.

Gopinath is learnt to have received offers from Congress’ rivals to contest the election from Palakkad constituency. Congress leader Shafi Parambil has been representing the constituency for the past 10 years. Realising that his candidature may mar the party’s chances, Congress leadership has launched efforts to placate the leader.

BJP too has been facing dissident trouble with senior leader and national general secretary Shobha Surendran raising a revolt against the party’s state president K Surendran. The differences came to the fore recently after the two leaders took contrasting stand at a public event over entry of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) into the BJP-led NDA.

Shobha Surendran
BJP Leader Shobha Surendran

While Shobha Surendran said IUML should be welcomed to the NDA if it sheds its communal agenda, K Surendran hinted that it was impossible stating that IUML was responsible for the partition of the country.

...There is More to the Story

My colleague R Ayyappan explains how ‘MetroMan’ E Sreedharan’s claim for chief ministership rattled the BJP Kerala unit.

“It is well known that BJP has a perception problem in Kerala. In a state where the majority community does not hold any serious grudges against the minorities, the party is generally seen as a divisive communal force.

Worse, it does not have a leader of a stature who could make people forget these distortions.

So, how was the party to make itself appealing to a largely middle-class Kerala? The general consensus was that the party should touch the aspirational side of the Malayali. This is why the state unit of the BJP has been busy shopping for former judges, IAS officers, DGPs and top executives to its fold. The BJP has a limited use for these high-end luminaries. They are to be used just the way lights are used during lm shoots; to throw more shine and lustre on the principal actors, the party leaders, but would remain out of the picture.

Lucknow: Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) Principal Advisor E. Sreedharan addresses a press conference in Lucknow, on June 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS)
E. Sreedharan. Photo: IANS

But the legendary E Sreedharan, India's 'metroman', has upset the BJP's plans. He was not interested in being just a spotlight. He wanted to be the person under the spotlight.”

Poll Specials

Ground stories and analytical pieces from Onmanorama reporters

1. R Ayyappan explains how a charismatic seer converted Nemom into a BJP citadel

2. G Ragesh analyses the impact of Kochi-based ‘V 4 People’ in the Assembly election

3. TA Ameerudheen tries to find out the future of Adivasi politics in Kerala

4. In this video interview, Congress leader VD Satheesan tells G Ragesh that ‘suicide is better than joining BJP’

5. TA Ameerudheen visits Malampuzha constituency in Palakkad district to check BJP’s claim of an upset win

6. Nitya Punnackal on how crucial is Kottayam for LDF to make history in Kerala

Curated Poll Stories

• Youths, fresh faces to dominate Congress candidate list in Kerala

• Suresh Gopi, Muraleedharan, Surendran to contest elections

• Kunhalikkutty factor key in Malappuram by poll

• Parties draw up plans for constituencies with narrow victory margins

• 10 constituencies in Kerala that may witness fierce contests



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