Column | Winning Kerala a ‘national necessity’ for CPM, Congress

Poll-bound in Kasaragod: Not all quiet on the northern front

Who will have the last laugh when the Assembly poll results are announced on Sunday?

Both Pinarayi Vijayan and Ramesh Chennithala are hopeful of winning the election, and the grapevine is that they have fixed, albeit unofficially, convenient dates for taking the oath of office.

The Left Democratic Front and United Democratic Front have been pitting themselves against each other in the present form at the hustings since the 1980s. The basic structure of the Fronts might undergo a change based on the mandate of the polling held on April 6. Hence, both the Fronts are expecting nothing short of a win.

The changes in the structure of alliances are already visible. The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), part of the Left alliance in West Bengal, are with the UDF in Kerala.

The CPM has been proudly viewing the Left governments in India as the continuation of the EMS Namboodiripad ministry, formed in 1957. Either the CPM or CPI has always been with the ruling front in any of the Indian states ever since 1957.

National necessity

If the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government doesn’t get a second consecutive term at the helm, neither of the communist parties will be in power anywhere in India. This explains why the CPM politburo and the party’s state committee said the continuation of power in Kerala is a “national necessity.”

The All India Congress Committee (AICC) took over the reins of the UDF campaign for the first time in Kerala since wresting power from the LDF has become a “national necessity” for the Congress also. The circumstances now are different from the run-up to the polls in five states.

The higher courts in the country have expressed intense displeasure over the handling of the COVID-19 situation in the country. Narendra Modi is facing the worst crisis ever since he assumed power in 2014. If Congress could come back to power, it will strengthen the party’s voice as the main opposition in the country.

A negative result will destroy the UDF before long. None of the elections in Kerala so far has raised such a threat to the existence of the Fronts. But a setback this time will present both the CPM and Congress with an uncertain future. Other constituents will also buckle under the defeat.

Performance of alliance partners

The internal issues and its performance will decide on whether the BJP could capitalize on the failure of either the UDF or LDF to win the treasury benches. More than BJP’s capitalization of the post-poll scenario, the UDF will be more concerned—in case of a defeat—about its constituents, including the Indian Union Muslim League’s, willingness to spend five more years in the opposition.

Additionally, the UDF is not used to sitting in the opposition  for 10 straight years. P C Chacko  has already set the tempo for crossing floors to the LDF after quitting Congress even before the polls.

The LDF, too, could be under threat if it is defeated. Apart from CPM, Congress is not untouchable for other LDF constituents: three of them were with the UDF till recently. If the total victory margin is narrow, both the Fronts will face the threat of possible sabotage.

The number of seats the constituents win is also important to the Fronts. Congress expects the League and others to win 30 seats. If Congress wins at least half of the segments it has contested, UDF can claim power with 75 -76 seats.

In the rival LDF camp, however, apprehension is rife over whether CPI and others could repeat their 2016 performance. If the constituents are successful only in less than 25 seats, CPM will have to win more than 50 of the 86 seats where the party has fielded its candidates, though it had won more seats in the previous Assembly polls.

In such a scenario, the question whether the denial of tickets to a few legislators over the two-term norm was right may haunt the Left Front. 

A third possibility is the National Democratic Alliance, Twenty20 and P C George winning four to six seats, leading to a hung Assembly. 

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