Kerala voters ignored graft charges, weighed LDF govt's fight against Covid: UDF

UDF meet
(From left) V D Satheesan, Ooommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala at the UDF meet in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.

A meeting of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), the first after the alliance's drubbing in the recent assembly polls in Kerala, witnessed some drama with senior leaders keeping mum even as coalition partners hit out at the Congress for mismanagement of polls. UDF convener and Congress veteran M M Hassan relied on some statistics to prove that the volume of the defeat was being projected out of proportion while the newly elected UDF chairman V D Satheesan pitched for a change in the style of functioning. 

UDF convener M M Hassan likened the defeat to the Left Democratic Front (LDF)’s debacle at the 2001 polls. The UDF will hold a detailed review meeting after the ongoing Assembly session to chalk out a plan to strengthen the Front to make good at the next polls. 

The meeting asked the constituent parties to hold talks within their respective organizations, and submit their recommendations before the planned review meeting.

The UDF leadership noted that the Front has increased its votes to 81 lakh from the previous 79 lakh. It lost seven seats by a margin of less than 2,000 votes, while the defeat was by 2,000 to 5,000 votes in 16 other seats. In 18 other constituencies, LDF pipped UDF by less than 10,000 votes. 

Kerala Congress (Mani) and Loktantrik Janata Dal leaving the Front ahead of the polls had not affected the UDF’s performance, the meeting reviewed.  

The UDF leadership also opined that the previous LDF government’s battle against COVID-19 became popular with its welfare measures. The meeting concluded that the government had fought for the survival of the people and hence the voters ignored its corruption. 

The meeting decided to support the government initiatives against COVID-19. Hassan said the mortality rate presented by the chief minister did not tally with the death toll being reported locally. 

The Congress demanded the government initiate mitigation measures against the pandemic’s third wave. The UDF convener also registered his protest against the Centre government’s vaccine policy.  

To a question on whether he would quit as the Front’s convener, Hassan said even if it happens, he will continue in the UDF and party. 

Satheesan elected chairman

The meeting selected the Leader of Opposition (LOP), V D Satheesan, as UDF chairman. 

The Front’s convener, M M Hassan, nominated Satheesan based on precedence. The nomination was unanimously accepted. The allies lauded the former chairman and LOP Ramesh Chennithala for the leadership he had provided. 

Satheesan hinted at changing the UDF’s style of functioning. Leaders in the State capital will meet daily to formulate a common line of thought and action. Government-related matters will be discussed in detail, he added.  

Mullappally, Shibu Baby John stay away

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran did not attend the UDF leadership meeting.

He informed Opposition Leader V D Satheesan and Hassan that it would be meaningless for him to attend the meeting since he had already expressed willingness to step down as KPCC chief. 

Ramachandran added that he had attended the previous meetings as KPCC president. Shibu Baby John, leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, was also absent from the meeting. 

Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and K Muraleedharan did not participate in the discussion though they were present at the meeting. 

Forward Bloc, CMP lash out at UDF leadership

Unleashing severe criticism against the Congress’s approach towards allies, the Communist Marxist Party (CMP) and All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) asked the UDF to learn from LDF on how to keep the Front as a single coherent unit by taking all constituent parties into confidence. 

While CMP was allotted one constituency to contest the polls, AIFB was denied a seat. G Devarajan (AIFB) said the UDF, though it listens to them during meetings, does not consider it during sharing of seats. 

Though Janadhipathya Kerala Congress was not known to many, its candidate Antony Raju won the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, Devarajan pointed out. People recognized him as an LDF candidate. 

But in UDF, smaller parties and their candidates should shoulder the sole responsibility of winning if they are allotted seats, he said. 

Blaming the Congress, Devarajan said the party’s seat-sharing drama in Delhi nullified the popular support the ‘Aishwarya Kerala Yatra’ had whipped up. 

CMP’s C P John said he has been slighted by the UDF, despite him being a part of the Front for the past three decades. CPM distributed seats among all allies, and ensured their win, he cited at the meeting. 

N K Premachandran of RSP said the UDF had failed in having a successful management like that of LDF to win the election. Indian Union Muslim League’s P K Kunhalikutty said there would be a change in his party based on the poll debacle.

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