Ahead of Assembly elections in Kerala, Congress, the leading party in the opposition coalition United Democratic Front (UDF), has started a state-wide tour 'Aiswarya Kerala’ yatra on Sunday. The 22-day state-wide yatra to woo the people ahead of the Assembly polls, likely to be held in April-May this year, is led by the leader of opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala.
Flagging off the 'Aiswarya Kerala' yatra at Kumbala in northernmost Kasaragod district, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had made a lot of claims on its 'achievements' during its tenure. The yatra focuses on criticising the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led LDF government over its five-year 'misrule' and promising a clean and good governance.
Though the campaign has begun with attacking the ruling LDF, the absence of Congress’s prominent leaders, including K Muraleedharan, is stoking speculation over an internal divide in the party.
As the Pinrayi Vijayan-led LDF has been receiving applauds for its inclusive developmental activities across the state, Oommen Chandy has claimed that these developmental activities had actually been initiated by his government. "That is not the truth. The last five years was a waste as neither the people nor the state gained anything during the Left rule. What is the development they are claiming?" Chandy asked. He claimed that the Kannur airport, Vizhinjam port and Kochi metro projects were started by the previous UDF government.
The medical college allotted to Kasaragod did not become a reality, due to which people had to suffer during the pandemic, he said. Unemployment was on the rise, he said and alleged that there were efforts to make 'back door appointments'. Chandy also used the platform to slam the Left government on the Sabarimala women entry issue, days after he shot off a letter to CM Vijayan, seeking legal remedies to "heal the wounds" created in the society due to its alleged hasty decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict.
Addressing the gathering, Chennithala said people were fed up with the five-year "misrule" of the LDF government and would not give it a second term. "This scam ridden government has cheated the people,” he alleged, alluding to the gold smuggling, dollar smuggling cases and various other corruption cases. He assured that if the UDF government was voted to power, it would bring in legislation to protect the faith of Sabarimala devotees.
Kerala had witnessed massive protests by right-wing outfits and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the LDF government decided to implement the apex court's September 28 verdict in 2018, lifting the restriction on entry of women of menstruating age into the hill shrine to offer prayers.
KPCC President Mullappally Ramachandran said the LDF government has"cheated" the people and it was a failure on all fronts and expressed confidence that the UDF would win 100 of the 140 seats and ride to power. AICC General Secretary Tariq Anwar, IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty, UDF convenor M M Hassan and Kerala Congress leader P J Joseph were also among those who spoke.
'Clean and good governance' was the slogan of the rally, which will also present the alternate development and welfare model proposed by the UDF to the people. The rally, after passing through the 140 constituencies spread over 14 districts, will reach the state capital on February 22.
Notably, the opposition leaders could not point out any proven incidents of scams or mismanagement of the LDF government.
On the other hand, the political parties in UDF have started bargaining for more seats in the Assembly elections. The parties are eyeing at the seats that are vacant since the Kerala Congress (Mani) and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) had left UDF.
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) - the second largest party in UDF- along with other parties like the Kerala Congress (Mani) Joseph fraction are demanding more seats in the coming elections. The Congress is, however, firm about contesting in these vacant seats stating that the legislators of the Congress have been on the decline over the past few elections.
In 2016 elections, Congress had contested in 87 seats and managed to win only 22 segments. However, IUML, which had contested in 24 seats, won 22. The KC(M), which came to the LDF camp recently, had contested 15 seats and managed to win six of these for UDF. This time, the PJ Joseph fraction of KC(M), which stands with UDF, is demanding the same 15 seats. This fraction, however, exclusively contested from four seats within KC(M) in 2016 elections.
Now, the Congress state leadership will have to convince PJ Joseph who is leading the residual faction of the KC(M). In the 2016 election, his faction within that party had exclusively got to contest on four seats. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Kerala Congress (Jacob) and Communist Marxist Party (CMP) would also bargain for the increase in number of seats in the coming elections. Thus, as the election is nearing, the friction with in the UDF is precisely increasing.
(With Inputs from PTI)