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Kerala at crossroads

The LDF and the UDF are more or less evenly balanced and the people of Kerala have been changing governments every five years. According to this pattern, it is the turn of the UDF to form the next government. Recent local body polls, however, put the LDF ahead, an indication the UDF has not done its homework.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The 6 April election to the Kerala Assembly will see for the first time three serious contenders to form the new government. Other than the usual fight between the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Marxists-led Left Democratic Front, the BJP has entered the fray as a serious contender with ‘Metroman’ Sreedharan, 88, who recently joined the party, as its chief minister candidate. Age has not withered nor diminished his infinite talents. K Surendran, president of the BJP in Kerala, says a person like Sreedharan becoming the Chief Minister will be good for Kerala.

The Kochi metro and the timely completion of the Palativattam flyover are examples of Sreedharan’s engineering skills. Given a chance, he will execute Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda, Surendran said. Union Minister V Muraleedharan from Kerala, is confident of defeating both the LDF and the UDF with Sreedharan leading the battle on the promise of corruption-free, development-oriented governance for the people of Kerala. Minorities play a significant role in Kerala politics.

A recent article in Deepika, a Malayalam daily published by the church, said the Christian community is unlikely to support the LDF or the UDF in the current election. None of the splinter groups of the Kerala Congress, political arm of the Christian community, is in a hurry to join the BJP, but PS Sreedharan Pillai, a senior BJP leader from Kerala who is now Governor of Mizoram, arranged a meeting of Kerala church leaders with the Prime Minister on 19 January.

Asked if there is any shift in the community’s political affiliation, Fr Jacob Palackapilly, spokesman of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said the church respected all political parties in India and “citizens are free to choose the party they wish.”

The LDF and the UDF are more or less evenly balanced and the people of Kerala have been changing governments every five years. According to this pattern, it is the turn of the UDF to form the next government. Recent local body polls, however, put the LDF ahead, an indication the UDF has not done its homework.

The Congress, leader of the UDF, is in disarray. Good governance of the LDF under the chief ministership Pinarayi Vijayan seemed poised until six months ago to break the chain and emerge with a consecutive second term.

A serious smuggling scandal in which people in high places were allegedly involved has tarnished the image of the LDF. The Customs Department informed the Kerala High Court in an affidavit on Friday that Swapna Suresh, prime accused in the famous gold smuggling case, has revealed that smuggling of foreign currency was carried out at the instance of the Chief Minister and P Sreeramakrishnan,Speaker of the Assembly.

The amount involved is just 1.3 crore worth of US dollars. It is inconceivable Vijayan would have risked his and the LDF’s reputation built over the last five years for a mess of pottage. The Customs was merely a cat’s paw of the BJP, said Vijayan. BJP State president Surendran said Vijayan and his co-accused would end up in prison and not in government