The leadership meetings of both the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala were held today at Thiruvananthapuram in the backdrop of the communally sensitive row over the 'love jihad and 'narcotic jihad' comments made by Pala Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt.
Immediately after the Bishop's statement stirred a hornet nest in political, social and religious circles, the UDF leaders, including VD Satheesan and K Sudhakaran, reached out to leaders of the minority religious communities, fearing that any kind of Christian-Muslim divide, if percolated into the grassroot level, would further weaken the UDF. The move by the Congress leaders caught the LDF off guard. It was only after two weeks, the Chief Minister was forced to criticise the Pala Bishop.
Armed with official figures, the CM categorically rubbished the charges of 'love jihad' and 'narcotics jihad' on Wednesday. After weeks of trying to apportion blame, Vijayan said in no uncertain terms that both these charges were “utterly baseless”.
Earlier, the UDF was swift to assess the ramifications of Kallarangatt's statement, urging Christians to be wary of such risks. The opposition front risked its electoral prospects if it had sided with the Church on the issue. And electoral figures are telling.
The difference between both the fronts, the LDF and the UDF, in the last Assembly polls was just 13 lakh votes. The LDF was ahead of the UDF in terms of vote share, six percent more. During the last Lok Sabha polls when the LDF performance hit abysmally low, the UDF had got a 12 percent lead in the vote share. When the LDF regained its winning ways in the local body polls, the UDF termed it as something usually seen in such polls and claimed that the verdict in the finals, i.e., assembly polls, would be different.
But in the Assembly polls, the LDF finished with an extra 3 percent vote share. So, if you take into account the successive victory of the LDF — first in the local body polls in 2015, second in the Assembly polls in 2016, then again in the local body polls in 2020 and finally in the Assembly polls in 2021 — it can be easily said the LDF has a clear upper hand over the UDF in the State politics.
Whatever be said about the good performance of Satheesan in the State Assembly as the Leader of Opposition or the vituperative attack on the LDF Government by KPCC President K Sudhakaran outside the Assembly, the gloominess in the UDF camp is due to these consistent drubbings suffered at the hand of the LDF in the last couple of polls.
UDF TO RETRIEVE LOST GROUND
The UDF takes solace in the fact that the front got around 81 lakh votes each in both the last Assembly and local body polls. It is of course a good number. But during both the elections, the support of the religious minorities was not forthcoming to the UDF in its full scale. The assessment made by the CPM State committee was that among the groups that supported the UDF, only the Nair Service Society (NSS) sincerely supported it during the last polls. But it seems now that even the NSS doesn't repose the same kind of faith on the new Congress leadership which it had with the previous leadership.
The UDF leadership felt that the results in the last couple of elections clearly demolished their belief that the strategy of not taking a strong stand on sensitive issues could fetch them votes. So, the front is not ready to forego its strong stance on various issues. Keeping this party position in mind, the Youth Congress has chalked out a State-wide campaign against the extremist elements operating in all the three main communities. By building a cadre system and by taking strong political stand, the UDF is trying to retrieve its lost ground.
LDF TREADS A CAUTIOUS PATH
Winning 77 constituencies on its own in the last polls was undoubtedly a glorious moment for the CPM, if the results of the Assembly elections in the state over the years are considered. But this time the LDF could gather only an additional 1.93% vote share in the polls even after Kerala Congress (M) and the LJD came to its fold. The front, which got a second term in power under the leadership of Pinarayi Vijayan, could not bag the 48.81 percent vote share which the LDF had managed in the 2006 Assembly polls when V S Achuthanandan was at the helm.
The CPM knew that any further growth of the party at the national level hinged on its consistent performance in Kerala. This is the reason why even after the LDF hitting a splendid tally of 99 seats in the Assembly, the CPM is still cracking the whip on those who violated the party discipline at the district-level during the last Assembly polls. This is exactly the reason why the CPM politburo members themselves accorded a warm reception to KPCC former officer-bearers at the party headquarters, AKG Centre, when they joined the CPM.
In short the LDF wants to maintain its winning streak and the UDF is trying hard to recover its lost ground. This goal of the two leading political fronts in Kerala will have a bearing on all future political discussions and manoeuvres.