As the Assembly elections are nearing in Kerala, the political fronts have intensified their campaign to ensure their win in the maximum number of seats out of 140 constituencies.
Amid these, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has raised allegations against the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) of negotiating with BJP for an electoral alliance in various constituencies across the state. The rejection of nomination of three BJP candidates, that, too, in the constituencies where BJP has a decent share of votes, adds weight to the LDF’s allegations.
Reportedly, the nominations of three BJP candidates- in Guruvayur, Thalassery and Devikulam- have been rejected. In the Guruvayur constituency, Mahila Morcha state president Nivedida Subramaniam was the BJP candidate and her nomination was rejected on the ground that the form submitted did not carry the signature of BJP president J P Nadda.
In the Thalassery constituency, BJP’s Kannur president N Haridas was the candidate and his nomination was rejected on similar grounds. In Devikulam of Idukki, AIADMK candidate Dhanalekshmi was representing the NDA and her nomination has been rejected due to submission of an incomplete form.
Though the NDA and the concerned candidates moved the Kerala High Court on March 21, a day after the rejection of their nominations, the Election Commission said in its affidavit that there cannot be judicial intervention in matters related to election after the notification of elections, as per the Article 329 B of the Constitution.
Following the rejection, in Devikulam constituency, BJP has decided to back a Congress rebel as its NDA candidate. While in Thalassery and Guruvayur constituencies, the NDA could not bag anybody to their camp and thus the front is left without candidates in the fray.
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In all these constituencies, BJP has had a significant share of votes affecting the representatives elected, as visible from earlier elections. While all three seats have sitting MLAs from the CPI(M), the BJP has reportedly been focussing on the Thalassery seat over the years.
In Devikulam, S Rajendran of CPI(M) had a victory margin of 6,232 votes against AK Mony of Congress in 2016. RM Dhanalakshmy of AIADMK who had contested for NDA had bagged 11,613 votes. The vote share of BJP in 2016 was much higher than that of the victory margin and if the votes shift to UDF, it would affect the election results this time. This time, A Raja of CPI(M) is contesting for LDF and D Kumar of Congress is contesting for UDF. Though NDA has backed an independent candidate G Ganeshan here, LDF has been accusing the Congress of arriving at an understanding with BJP in the constituency.
While in Thalassery, AN Shamseer of CPI(M) had won the seat in 2016 with a victory margin of 34,117 votes. Congress had secured 36,324 votes and BJP got 22,125 votes. Though the victory margin of LDF was much higher than that of BJP’s vote share in 2016, there have been allegations of understanding between Congress and BJP to defeat the LDF here too. The sitting MLA AN Shamseer is representing the LDF this time as well.
Criticising the BJP-Congress understanding to defeat Left, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the victory of BJP in the Nemom constituency during the 2016 Assembly elections was a manifestation of this deal.
“The deal was that Congress would help BJP to win from Nemom in return for a similar assistance to the UDF candidates in the neighbouring constituency. The revelations made by V. Surendran Pillai, the victim of UDF’s vote trade, has proven this deal,” he said.
In 2016, BJP’s O Rajagopal had won the Nemom seat in Thiruvananthapuram and it was the first ever entry of BJP into the Kerala Legislative Assembly.
Nemom Assembly Results from 2006 to 2016
In Nemom, where Congress had 60,884 votes in 2006, their vote share had decreased to mere 13,860 in 2016. Though in 2006, Congress’s N Shaktan had won the seat, later in 2011 and 2016, the seat was given to UDF’s constituent parties. In 2016, V Surendran Pillai of Janata Dal (United) had contested for UDF.
Surendran Pillai, the 2016 UDF candidate, had himself admitted the deal between Congress and BJP in Nemom in 2016. He accused Congress of trading votes to BJP. He said that the leadership was aware of this vote trading and added that he had got information regarding the vote trade two days before the polling.
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“The Congress has a tradition of awarding seats to its allies and then trading votes to the opposite party. This happened at Nemom in 2011 too, when Charupara Ravi contested. Former KPCC President V.M. Sudheeran was the only leader who dealt honestly with this issue. After I lost, we raised the demand for an enquiry. The enquiry report recommended action against five Congress leaders, but it never saw the light of the day. Now BJP leader O. Rajagopal, who won from Nemom, has also confirmed this understanding,” Pillai had said.
Interestingly, last week, O Rajagopal, the lone member of BJP in the Assembly, said that the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has had an adjustment with the BJP earlier. Congress- IUML-BJP understanding is shortly known as CoLiBe alliance. The CoLiBe alliance against Left had reportedly began in 1991.
In the 1991 elections, such a political experiment had allegedly been undertaken against the Left front in Beypore state Assembly and Vadakara lok sabha constituencies. Late K. Madhavankutty, former principal of medical college stood as the alliance’s independent candidate in Beypore, against TK Hamza of CPI(M). But, CPI(M) had managed to win the election against this alliance. In Vadakara, former Advocate General, late M. Ratna Singh was the “alliance’s” independent candidate, but he lost to KP Unnikrishnan. In 2014, Ratna Singh had even admitted such an alliance against the Left that had happened in 1991.
“If we are getting support from another party where we cannot contest, we will make such adjustments. Isn’t that business? Isn’t that how politics works? However, the other party should also feel that this adjustment will be advantageous for them,” said Rajagopal during an interview with Asianet News, a Malayalam News channel.
According to Rajagopal, such adjustments happen at the local-level after the approval from the state leadership and with their full knowledge. “Such local-level understandings have been made in the past. The BJP has also been able to raise its vote share during such elections,” he had added.
However, according to reports, the Nemom model experiment is to be repeated in selected constituencies including Vattiyoorkkavu, where the sittin MLA, VK Prasanth of LDF, has claimed that such attempts are ongoing.