Edge for UDF in Kerala; BJP looks better

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi published on April 16, 2009

Psephologists’ forecasts favouring the Congress-led UDF seemed all set to prove true on Wednesday as the more-than 2.18-crore strong electorate of Kerala prepared to go to the polling booths to elect their 20 MPs to the 15th Lok Sabha on Thursday. When the ‘silent’ campaigning of the candidates and the squad works by their supporters coming to an end on Wednesday evening, UDF poll managers exuded confidence that they would win at least 16 seats in the State.

A corresponding despair was obvious in the voice of some senior leaders of the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF as some of them secretly admitted that they might not repeat the overwhelming victory they tasted in the 2004 Lok Sabha election. They, however, exuded confidence saying that the “umpteen poor and lower middle class” in the State, “who have benefited in a big manner from the pro-people policies of the LDF Government”, would be their secret to victory.

At the close of the ‘silent’ campaign on Wednesday, estimates and predictions were surely not in favour of the LDF, which was facing the polls in the background of an anti-incumbency wave, the SNC Lavalin corruption case against CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and several mistaken steps during the run-up to the polls like an ‘unholy’ alliance with Abdul Nasser Madani’s PDP and antagonising the Church.

Responses from LDF campaigners at the grassroots level showed widespread dissatisfaction, especially in constituencies like Vadakara, Palakkad, Kannur, Chalakkudy and Kottayam, all of which were being held by the CPI(M). Reports from Kasaragod, the northern-most constituency, which was being seen as a strong CPI(M) fortress, said the prospects of LDF’s sitting MP P Karunakaran’s majority would plummet drastically.

Even the CPI(M)’s official claims of assured LDF victory did not go beyond five seats. However, sources in the party admitted that even the verdict in Alathur reserved constituency, which was till now considered a stronghold of the Left, could disappoint the CPI(M) in the last moment.

“I can tell you by Thursday evening about the chances in Alathur” was how a senior CPI(M) functionary, a former member of the Palakkad district committee, responded to a question on this. “We have to look at what damage the Janata Dal(S) (which had turned against the CPI(M) after the denial of its sitting Kozhikode seat) can do to our candidate PK Biju,” this leader said, referring to the claim of the Dal that they commanded more than 30,000 seats in the Chittur Assembly segment of the Alathur LS constituency.

There were observations on Wednesday evening that the LDF victory in Kerala could be limited to two seats – Kasaragod and Attingal – out of the total 20. “We are not that weak but we are not very strong,” said the former Palakkad district committee member of the CPI(M). “Still, there are several negative factors which could work against us,” he added.

Observers said there was every chance that the BJP would improve its vote percentage which had plummeted to four per cent in the State in the last election from the 12 per cent level. Though State party president PK Krishnadas, candidate in Thiruvananthapuram, wanted the media to believe that the party would open account in the State this time, poll analysts refused to grant that.

Krishnadas, Yuva Morcha State president K Surendran (Kasaragod) and former State party president CK Padmanabhan (Palakkad) are expected to present better performance. Observers did not reject the possibility of Surendran coming to the second position in Kasaragod in the tough triangular contest by pushing UDF’s lone woman candidate Shahida Kamal of the Congress into the third place.

The BJP was going stronger till Wednesday evening, and their biggest advantage was that there were no talks about vote-sales, a regular complaint against the party, had been heard this time.

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