Column | UDF trails NDA too in terms of Keralite Rajya Sabha MPs

Column | UDF trails NDA too in terms of Keralite Rajya Sabha MPs
When Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan came to Pala for an election campaign along with Jose K Mani and Stephen George. File photo

Despite posting a thumping 19-1 win in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the United Democratic Front (UDF) is continuing its losing streak with each Rajya Sabha bypoll held in Kerala.

Kerala will be holding yet another bye-election to the Rajya Sabha on November 30, necessitated by the resignation of Kerala Congress (M) chairman Jose K Mani. He had resigned the post when his party crossed floors to the Left United Front (LDF) ahead of the local body polls late last year.

Mani is the LDF candidate, and with his win, Kerala's representation in the Upper House of Parliament will be nine, with LDF having seven members and the UDF two. The UDF won't be in the bypoll contest since the LDF has an upper hand in the State Assembly, but the fact that it has fewer members than Keralites representing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajya Sabha will haunt the Front.

BJP can claim three Malayali members in the Upper House: V Muraleedharan, and Alphons Kannanthanam, elected from other States, and Suresh Gopi, a nominated member. The UDF, on the other hand, has only A K Antony (Congress) and P V Abdul Wahab (IUML), elected from Kerala. If BJP considers Central minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar elected from Karnataka, too, as a Malayali member, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will have four Keralites in Rajya Sabha.

The UDF will still lag behind NDA even if it adds K C Venugopal, a member from Rajasthan, to its tally.

UDF lost two seats in five years

Incidentally, the two seats the UDF lost during the past five years were those held by its constituent parties. It lost the seats when the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) and KC(M) ditched the Front for the LDF. With the UDF forced to sit in the opposition for the second consecutive term, the lone vacant Rajya Sabha seat, too, will go to the ruling LDF. If the LDF had not won the April 2021 Assembly polls, Mani, now in LDF camp, would not have had a chance to return to the Upper House.

Column | UDF trails NDA too in terms of Keralite Rajya Sabha MPs
K M Mani presenting a budget.

In fact, LDF and KC(M) were concerned over the Rajya Sabha seat left vacant following Mani's resignation in January 2021.

The LJD and KC(M) joining the LDF benefitted the Front in the 2020 local body polls and 2021 Assembly polls. It gained two Rajya Sabha seats as well. M V Shreyams Kumar, who became a Rajya Sabha member following the death of his father M P Veerendra Kumar, will hold the seat till April 2022, while Mani's term will be till July 2024.

If both LJD and KC(M) continued in the UDF, the Rajya Sabha tally would have been LDF 5 and UDF 4.

The Congress will be forced to take note of losing one Rajya Seat later this month. KC(M) was allotted the Rajya Sabha seat in 2018 after the completion of P J Kurien's term. The seat belonging to the Congress was offered to KC(M) to keep it within the UDF fold.

The gifting of the seat also sparked criticism, cutting across factions, against Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala. Rahul Gandhi had expressed his displeasure over losing one Rajya Sabha member.

VD Satheesan and Oommen Chandy.
VD Satheesan, Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.

The number game

After KC(M) was granted the Rajya Sabha seat, Mani resigned his Lok Sabha membership. When he aligned with the LDF, he resigned from Rajya Sabha, stating the seat was granted by the UDF. Mani's resignation from Lok Sabha cost the UDF a member in the lower house, and his quitting the UDF led to the Front losing a Rajya Sabha member. Mani, who lost the Assembly polls from Pala, is now returning to the Rajya Sabha as an LDF member.

The loss did not stop with Mani. It was double whammy for UDF with Thomas Chazhikadan, the KC(M) MP from Kottayam, too, joining the LDF. Coincidentally, Shreyams Kumar and Mani were the only LDF constituent party leaders who were defeated in the State Assembly polls.

The LDF will win two more Rajya Sabha seats, and UDF one, when the tenures of A K Antony, Shreyams Kumar, K Somaprasad (CPM) end in April 2022. The UDF's strength in the Rajya Sabha will increase to three from the current two only when Mani, Elamaram Kareem and Benoy Viswam's terms end in 2024. Considering the strength in the Assembly, the UDF can send one member when there is an election to three Rajya Sabha seats.

Rivalry between the Fronts apart, the State currently has a record representation in the Rajya Sabha with 14 Malayalis as its members.

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