National leaders to the fore in Kerala as campaigning picks up and election day draws closer

Amit Shah, Rahul Gandhi

With just two weeks remaining for the legislative assembly polls, election fever has gripped Kerala. National leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Amit Shah and Sitaram Yechury have already visited the state to lead the campaign of their respective fronts.

Procedures regarding the filing of nomination papers have been completed and candidates are leaving no stone unturned in their constituencies. They have intensified the campaign in the light of the Holy Week which gives them less time to reach out to the voters especially in the Christian strongholds.

The opposition leader and the United Democratic Front (UDF) are upbeat that they could make the Election Commission to initiate corrective steps based on their allegations of four lakh bogus voters in the electoral rolls. While talking to Manorama, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala expressed confidence of a victory for the UDF if bogus voting could be prevented.

CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan felt a strong trend in favour of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) during the initial phase of campaigning. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance suffered an embarrassment after the Election Commission rejected the nomination papers of candidates in three constituencies.

The BJP is hoping that the campaign will get an added vigour when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah take the plunge.

Arguments and counter-arguments over Sabarimala and allegations of possible trading of votes by BJP is getting louder. The LDF, on introspection, felt it could have presented a better manifesto if it was not forced to be defensive on the Sabarimala issue.

The UDF and NDA are trying to drag the CPM into the Sabarimala issue, which the latter wants to avoid. NSS has taken an uncompromising stand on the issue. Deviating from his usual stand, Cngress leader Oommen Chandy openly spoke about a BJP-CPM deal the other day.

The secret deal is of seven seats to BJP in return for supporting the LDF in other constituencies, the former Chief Minister said.

Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been elaborating on the development and welfare measures the government has undertaken over the past years, the media is highlighting only his response to the allegations raised by the opposition.

A joint UDF campaign in all the 140 constituencies started late due to the prolonged row over its candidate in Elathur. By the time the united campaign started, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had already reached the halfway mark.

hennithala toured Irikkur, another constituency which had seen protests over the UDF candidate, on Tuesday, to intensify the campaign.

The UDF leadership has issued instructions to specifically refute in campaign meets survey findings that predicted its defeat. LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan told Manorama that the survey results have not made the Front over-confident.

The statements of gold smuggling case accused against the Assembly Speaker and the Vigilance’s finding of disproportionate wealth in IUML MLA K M Shaji’s possession will be raised by both the political fronts in the coming days.

Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Ernakulam and Kottayam boosted the morale of the UDF rank and file.

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury began his campaign from Nileshwaram in Kasaragod, and Amit Shah is back again in the state. He had unleashed a fierce criticism of the chief minister and the government while speaking at the conclusion of K Surendran’s Vijaya Yatra a few weeks ago.

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