Kozhikode: As the Assembly elections in Kerala are due in the first half of 2021, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) faces new challenges as some Lok Sabha members have reportedly expressed their desire to return to Kerala politics. The rift in Kerala Congress (Mani) has also reportedly impacted the structure of UDF.
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), national general secretary P K Kunhalikutty, who represents the Malappuram constituency in Lok Sabha, has reportedly expressed his wish to shift to back to Kerala politics. Kunhalikkutty, a constituent of the UDF, was first elected to Lok Sabha in 2017 after the demise of then sitting MP and former Union minister E Ahmed. In the bye-election after the demise of Ahmed, Kunhalikutty vacated his Vengara Assembly seat. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well, he was elected to Parliament from Malappuram.
A few Congress MPs, such as K Muraleedharan and Adoor Prakash are also reportedly trying to get back to state politics.
Of the 20 seats from Kerala, UDF had bagged 19 seats in the 2019 general elections. Unlike other Indian states, Kerala had a strong anti-incumbency wave against first Narendra Modi government. Many senior Congress leaders, who were sitting MLAs, had contested from the state hoping the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance would come power at the Centre in May 2019. Hence, they had contested Lok Sabha elections, leaving their Assembly seats.
“But the BJP thrashed their hopes and now Kunhalikutty has expressed his desire to shift back to Kerala politics,” a senior Congress MP was quoted as saying.
Political commentators point out that some of these Congress leaders are now eyeing at the 2021 Assembly elections and the Congress camp is also hoping that they would make it. If so, M Muraleedharan, Kodikkunnil Suresh, Adoor Prakash, K Sudhakaran, TN Prathapan and Hybi Eden are the potential leaders looking to get back power in Kerala. Of these, Prakash had represented the Konni Assembly constituency. Muraleedharan and Hybi had represented Vattiyyorkkavu and Ernakulam, respectively. However, in the bye-elections, Congress had lost the Konni and Vattiyoorkkavu seats.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Ajay Tharayil has come out against the reported move of these Kerala MPs. He has been quoted as saying that there are many younger leaders in the state Congress, who should get an opportunity this time.
The same sentiment seems to be reigning in UDF constituent, IUML. A senior IUML legislator told The New Indian Express: “It is not only Youth League leaders, but almost 80 per cent of party leaders are against Kunhalikutty coming back to state politics. So far, no discussion has taken place in the party on this, but a whisper campaign is on.”
K P A Majeed, IUML state general secretary, said if Kunhalikutty has any such wish, it will be first discussed in the party and not with Congress leaders. He said the party’s immediate focus was on local body elections.
However, Kunhalikkutty said: “People have been talking about this ever since I became active in the programmes in the state. Let's see how it goes.”
Kerala Congress (M)- KC(M)- leader Jose K Mani also continues the suspense on his party’s political stance. KC(M) Jose fraction, which was awarded the symbol of party- two leaves- was not been invited for Tuesday’s UDF meeting. While PJ Joseph, who is in the UDF camp, has said they would contest from the Kuttanad Assembly seat in the upcoming bye-election.
On Sunday, Jose K Mani had said that KC(M) would go ahead with the disqualification move against MLAs P J Joseph and Mons Joseph for violating the party whip in the Assembly. “The KC(M) steering committee meeting held in Kottayam unanimously resolved to proceed with the move,” he said.
“After being ousted from the UDF, the KC(M) had taken an independent position in state politics. Now that the Election Commission’s verdict is in our favour, the party steering committee will take a decision on joining one of the coalitions before the upcoming civic polls,” he said.
Though Jose K Mani has not made any public declaration about future political alliance, Left leaders have said that he won’t be “abandoned’. Communist party of India (Marxist) Kottayam district secretary VN Vasavan, while talking to the media, said Mani had ground support in many pockets, especially in Kottayam district, where he hails from.
The rift in Kerala Congress (M), along with some senior Congress leaders’ desire to return to Kerala politics, does not bode well for the UDF ahead of the Assembly polls next year.
UDF Candidates for Assembly Bypolls
On Tuesday, UDF declared candidates for the bye-election to two Assembly seats in Kerala. UDF chairman and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, announced that two of its allies, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Baby John) will contest the Chavara seat and the Kerala Congress will fight the Kuttanad seat.
"The UDF has finalised the candidates. At Chavara, Shibu Baby John of the RSP will contest and at Kuttanad, Jacob Abraham of Kerala Congress will fight for the UDF. We have maintained the status quo of the last election," Chennithala told the media.
Kuttanad seat in Alappuzha fell vacant after the death of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Thomas Chandy on December 20, last year, while the death of MLA N Vijayan Pillai of the CPI(M) on March 8 necessitated the bypoll in Chavara seat.
The Kuttanad seat was won by NCP, an ally of the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala, in the past two elections. The Chavara seat was wrested from the UDF’s Shibu Baby John by CPI(M)’s Pillai in the last election.
The Left and Bharatiya Janata Party are yet to formally announce their candidates
(With inputs from PTI)