UDF back as favourites in Kerala

The runup to the assembly elections in Kerala has been dramatically centred around the leaders of the two fronts this time - Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and  Opposition leader Oommen Chandy. The ghost of 2006 suddenly returned to haunt Comrade VS when he found himself being  denied a seat again by his party despite a surge in his popularity recently. Similarly, chief minister-in-waiting Oommen Chandy found that the LDF Government was all set to make him an accused in the palmolein case after over 15 years. 

Though the CPM corrected its mistake and fielded Achuthanandan from Malampuzha in Palakkad, the party has indicated that he may not be leading the front post- poll. Home Minister and CPM Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is next in line to lead the CPM.

In a principled move, Chandy has said that he will not contest the elections if made an accused in the palmolein case.

This has thrown open the doors of the Congress and UDF  leadership to several probables - Kerala PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala, Union Minister Vayalar Ravi  and even Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan.

Though both Achuthanandan and Oommen Chandy have been leading the state’s rival coalitions for over seven years, there has been a primary difference between the two.

Achuthanandan, the star crusader against corruption and champion of the suffering masses has been accused by his own party of challenging its policies and putting his ministerial colleagues in the dock. Chandy, also an upright leader and champion of pragmatism and speed in government functioning, has his party’s unstinted support.

It was Achuthanandan’s efforts that led to the jailing of Kerala Congress leader Balakrishna Pillai in a corruption case and the revival of the sex scandal case linking another UDF leader P K Kunhalikutty. Though the contradiction-riven LDF looked like a sitting duck for the UDF, it was the revival of these cases that exposed the chinks in the
Opposition's armour. However, the CPM leadership decided to bridle Achuthanandan as in 2006. It was after the CPM politburo and district committees protested that the party leadership decided to give a ticket to VS.  

It is in this background that the UDF and LDF have been locked in a high voltage contest. Though the delimitation of constituencies has thrown up uncertainty in several seats, the UDF has a clear upper hand. The exit of  the Kerala Congress (J) from the ruling LDF and its merger with the KC(M), a constituent of UDF, will be  tested in the people’s court.

The LDF and UDF have both completed the seat sharing amicably. The CPM will contest 93 seats, CPI 27, JD(S) 5, RSP and NCP 4 each, KC(Thomas) and INL 3 each and Congress (S) one. In UDF, the Cong will contest 81 seats, IUML 24, KC(M) 15, Socialist Janata 7, JSS 4, CMP and KC(Jacob) 3 each, KC(B) 2 and RSP(B) 1.

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