CPM's decision to field K P Kunhammed Kutty in Kuttiady has surprised the conservatives within the party. For the first time, the party - normally not known to tolerate indiscipline - succumbed to the pressure by its cadre.
Several CPM workers and sympathizers had hit the streets demanding the party to take back Kuttiady from Kerala Congress (Mani). CPM, which had initially given the constituency to KC(M), gave in to the pressure, and fielded a candidate acceptable to the cadre.
Return to power for national relevance
CPM softening its stand and granting the wish of its workers is reflective of the importance the party State committee has given to its bid to return to power.
"The continuation of Left rule in Kerala is inevitable. It has now become a national requirement. Returning to power is a must for the Left Front to regain its influence at the national level. The communist party in Kerala has to take up a historic task," says a CPM State committee document on approaching the Assembly polls.
Each seat has now become valuable for the front. The CPM ignored the insults central committee member M V Govindan and district secretary P Mohanan had suffered on the streets, and went by the workers' wish to field a district secretariat member in Kuttiady.
Such is the CPM's resolve to return to power that the state leadership might keep mum if state committee member and minister Kadakampally Surendran, who lamented the Sabarimala-linked incidents, corrected politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan for his "won't change the stand for the sake of a few votes" statement.
A question at this juncture is over the denial of seats to 33 leaders, including five ministers and Speaker. The party's reply is the dialectical slogan, "continuation through change." Kerala is now witnessing a do-or-die battle for the existence of the Left in the country.
Change of generation
The Congress is not wont to explain party-accepted documents. Huge efforts had gone into the creation of the list of candidates, which KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran claimed as the
"best list in the country." Recalling the meetings of the screening committee, a member said they were tense. Except in the case of sitting seats, arguments and counter-arguments delayed the naming of candidates in all other seats.
AICC members, who countered nominations by the Kerala leadership, named others based on two surveys the national leadership had conducted. Much time was spent on reaching a consensus on each seat.
The AICC is of the view that only a change of generation could lead the party to success. Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and Mullappally Ramachandran took a while to get adapted to the idea.
K C Venugopal, who represented the national leadership, took a stern, uncompromising stand during the meetings. Incidentally, the Congress high-command has never intervened in the Assembly polls of any other state the way it did in the case of Kerala.
When asked about the high-command's intervention, Chennithala said: "A win in Kerala is the need of the hour for the UDF at the State level, and for the Congress at the national level. Of the five states going to the polls, Congress has a better prospect in Kerala. Both the AICC and KPCC want the Congress's re-emergence to start from Kerala."
Still, voices of dissent were heard from both CPM and Congress. The campaign trail is likely to get hotter since the two parties are giving much importance to the upcoming polls. Meanwhile, the BJP leadership has been reiterating that it will form the government if it wins 35 seats in the State, widely considered as a warning that the party would indulge in horse-trading to add 36 more required for a simple majority.
Allegations of "the deal is ready" arose from within the BJP itself much before the State went into election mode. BJP State chief K Surendran has already become the first party leader to heli-hop across Kerala. By allowing Surendran to use a helicopter, BJP national leadership has sent out a clear message that the party would take any risk in the State.
Leaders from outside the State are monitoring the constituencies where BJP has a better chance of winning. Apart from about 30 seats considered to be the strongholds of either CPM or Muslim League, all other constituencies are likely to witness triangular contests, making Kerala the political hotspot in March.