Opinion | A silver lining for UDF in Thrikkakara, LDF must hear voice of conscience

Uma Thomas, Dr Jo Joseph and AN Radhakrishnan (from left to right). File Photo

The UDF delivered a knockout punch to the ruling Left Democratic Front's proclaimed pro-development stance in the Thrikkakara bypoll.

What was billed as a tough contest by the LDF turned out to be a flop show as the round one lead itself indicated -- Uma Thomas's lead increased to 2,518 from 1,258 her husband P T Thomas got a year ago in 2021. But then the first round counting was from UDF strongholds in the corporation area. Nevertheless, the story only got bleaker for the LDF from there.

The LDF clearly bragged about its chances in Thrikkakara, a traditional UDF stronghold, which P T Thomas retained in 2021 by an increased margin of 14,239 from 11996 in 2016 despite an LDF wave which swept the state and the Twenty20 eating into nearly as many votes as the margin of victory.

It is anybody's guess that Twenty20 mostly drew its strength from UDF's vote base.

So what prompted LDF into a chest-thumping campaign amid a perceived deep resentment against the Pinarayi government?

The answer lies in the CPM and the LDF's blind belief in Pinarayi Vijayan's aggressive backing of the controversial Rs 63,000 crore SilverLine project, which aims at connecting Kerala's northern tip of Kasaragod with the state capital Thiruvananthapuram in the southernmost point.


To connect Kerala's northern and southern most districts in a mere four hours by rail seems to be a fancied idea but the socio-economic price needed for it was too scary.

Fair enough, Thrikkakara verdict alone cannot be seen as a barometer of public sentiment vis-a-vis Pinarayi's K-rail project.

But the verdict makes itself heard as a voice of caution on the way the state government has been bulldozing the protests against land acquisition related to it.

It also disapproves of the way the state administration tackled the anti-K-Rail protestors by the might of the stick and the ruling dispensation's cavalier approach to opposing forces.

The Thrikkakara vote is also an indictment of the NDA regime in the Centre as it came at a time when households were feeling the pinch of skyrocketing price rise of essential commodities.

The rage of voters would have made no distinction between the state and central administration on that count and rallied behind the main opposing party at the state and the centre -- the Congress.

The huge margin of the UDF also reflects fear of voters that any endorsement of the ruling fronts in the state and the Centre would be tantamount to inviting more authoritarian streaks the Modi administration and the Pinarayi regime were ruthlessly displaying by virtue of enjoying an earlier massive mandate.

The voters sought a stick to deliver a blow to the regimes and as such Thrikkakara bypoll was a godsend opportunity. Not an opportunity to correct a 'mistake' Thrikkakara made in 2021 assembly polls as LDF claimed, but a corrective message to the ruling bench.

The LDF's opportunistic celebration of K V Thomas in its desperate bid to woo the Christian community backfired as voters saw in it a replica of the BJP central leadership which goes all out to woo Opposition leaders to its fold without displaying any concerns about their previous political stance.

The CPM's sudden affection for disenchanted political figures leaving the Congress fold was too much for the voters to swallow. Perhaps, the LDF sensed this as is evident from K V Thomas being kept out of active campaigning.

PC George and KV Thomas
PC George and KV Thomas. File Photo

The LDF also had to face the wrath of Twenty20 voters who rallied to vote against the CPM, which targeted its founders via raids at the businesses run by the Kitex Group.

The BJP also had to face the fury of the electorate as its vote share dipped despite it tagging on to shrill voices of hatred emanating from the political fringe to please it.

As a result, while its traditional voters stayed put with it, the saffron camp failed to win the confidence of neutral voters without which its Kerala plans are totally out of sync with the mood of the state's electorate.

The BJP may not have realised that many political figures are just echoing the Hindutva sentiments either because they are staring at political oblivion or to somehow latch on to the corridors of power that are becoming increasingly elusive.

The sagging electoral fortunes of the UDF definitely got a boost but it should not count on Thrikkakara as a sign of its resurgence.

UDF workers celebrate the victory of Uma Thomas. Photo: special arrangement

Because, Thrikkakara is more of a negative vote against the ruling CPM-led LDF than a ratification for the Congress-led UDF.

And the ruling LDF would rather make amends to accommodate opposing views.

Displaying a herd mentality by its absolute backing of government decisions and counting on well-oiled party machinery would not suffice to win over the electorate.

Remember, Pinarayi himself led from the front on the campaign front, though the CPM leaders now say it was a party show. It wasn't.

It needs to be seen as an inclusive front rather than taking up cudgels against the layman haunted by the fear of displacement in a densely populated state in the name of development.

It needs to also check the unbridled power vested with the Chief Minister and reflect on why blindly toeing a line of thought, be it that of the party or the CM, may not bode well for its political fortunes.

In other words, the voices of dissent in the party and the Left Democratic Front cannot be muted with disdain. Instead, such voices should be allowed to emerge louder to reflect the conscience of its backers, if the party fancies any chance of retaining the overwhelming trust reposed on it by the electorate just a year ago.

That trust quotient seems to be on the wane now.

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