Kerala election results have come as a stunner. The Left Democratic Front [LDF] may win 68 seats and the United Democratic Front [UDF] 72 seats out of a total of 140 - plus one or two seats this way or that when the final tally comes. This is undoubtedly Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader V. S. Achuthanandan’s finest hour in a tumultous political career spanning some 60 years. It is also a tight slap on the face of “Amul baby” Rahul Gandhi by the people of Kerala for questioning their political wisdom in electing 87-year old VS again. Incidentally, VS won by a thumping majority in Malampuzha constituency in Palakkad district.
Quite clearly, Congress seems to have anticipated this sort of a setback was not improbable and, therefore, toward the end of the campaign in April, they let loose a savage personal attack on VS and his family members, in which even stalwarts of the Congress with dignity and decorum like A.K.Antony stopped to participate. Shame on all of them - Rahul Gandhi, Antony and Oommen Chandy!
This sort of an election result on communal lines was expected - a Christian and Muslim consolidation behind the Congress-led UDF, thanks to its allies with communal background. Muslim League’s massive victory in Malappuram and UDF’s success in Kottayam and Idukki districts show clearly that the Congress-led front gained immensely by blatant communal politics. In contrast, LDF’s success goes to VS’s credit and is a testimony to the performance of the LDF government. The LDF actually improved its performance in Alleppey, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kozhikode districts and held on to its citadel in Kannur and did fairly well in Thruvananthapuram.
Congress has, contrary to expectations, fared rather poorly. This comes as a big setback for the party. Is Rahul Gandhi responsible? Possibly to an extent, by injecting his own candidates’ list to the KPCC comprising faceless “Amul babies” who have no political base in Kerala. The scams in Delhi have discredited the Congress’ image in Kerala. No doubt on that score. The fact that there has been no “anti-incumbency” as such and that LDF retrieved such a huge ground after the 2009 parliamentary election shows that the secular-minded Malayali voters thought through carefully about the kind of government they should have.
Conceivably, there has been a heavy consolidation of Ezhava and Dalit voters behind the CPM. They have always been the backbone of the communist movement in Kerala. They have solidly identified with VS. This is a complex phenomenon but it doesn’t come as a surprise to me. May I recall a piece I wrote from Thiruvananthapuram on April 12 even as the election campaign was concluding in Kerala?
What happens now? CPM is the single largest party by far. In terms of established constitutional norms, it should be VS’s turn to be called by the Governor to form the next government. Can he prove a majority on the floor of the house? Of course, no problem. The small parties that crossed over to UDF at the rather recently like Janata Dal and Kerala Congress (Joseph ) can always return to the LDF fold. They are already incensed over the shabby treatment that Congress gave them in seat allocation. So, indeed, Kerala Congress (Mani group). K.M. Mani is unhappy that Congress was rude in its seat allocation to his party. He alone commands some 10 MLAs or so and all that LDF needs to have for establishing a simple majority will be a paltry 2 or 3 more MLAs than what it already has in its kitty.
Much now depends on Governor Gavai, a solid rustic Congressman by background. Will he go by constitutional propriety or will he take a partisan decision in favour of Congress, which won some 10 seats less than CPM in a house of 140? Congress will be, conceivably, loathe to abdicate - power is money, after all.
All in all, I am a hugely happy man. The agony over the past 2-3 years when VS was being hounded was very acute. For my generation, he was always an iconic figure. For CPM, too, there is much to introspect. What would have been the result today if VS hadn’t been forced to govern all through these past 5 years literally with one hand tied behind his back? What was the need to have expelled him from the CPM Politburo? He is the tallest leader of the communist movement in India today. Quite clearly, VS may not be controlling the party machinery but the election results amply bear out that he certainly lords over the Malayalis’ affection and respect. Lal Salaam, VS!
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