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Coalitional commotions turn Kerala polls scene turbulent

Coalitional commotions turn Kerala polls scene turbulent

Thiruvananthapuram: Upsetting the calculations of a smooth run by rival fronts, electoral scene in Kerala has turned turbulent with the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) quitting the LDF and Kerala Congress (Mani) keeping the Congress on tenterhooks over the Western Ghats conservation issue.

With the formal issue of notification for the April 10 elections just a week away both the coalitions are yet to give final shape to their candidates' list for the 20 seats.

The notification will be issued on March 15 and the last date for filing of nominations is March 22.

Despite being a key partner of the Left for long in the state and at the national level, RSP dealt a severe blow to CPI-M when it decided to quit the front Saturday and put up its candidate in Kollam seat.

The simmering discontent in the RSP over denial of Kollam seat by the lead partner reached a flashpoint on Saturday, with the party's state unit firm up its plan to put up former MP N K Premachandran, where the CPI-M is planning to field polit bureau member M A Baby.

According political analysts, it is all the more significant that the RSP has not only pulled out of the LDF but also made it clear that it would not be averse for a tie up with the Congress-led UDF if it supports its contestant in Kollam.

The development also came as a setback to the CPI-M's status as the undisputed leader of a "strong and united Left" in the country serving as the engine that propels the anti-Congress, anti- BJP alternative before and after the elections.

Though RSP's strength is confined to isolated pockets in south Kerala, its breaking out of the LDF could come as a potent weapon for the UDF in the campaign in the entire state. The development also punctured the LDF's claim of being a coherent and compact coalition unlike the UDF, whose partners often air their differences in the open.

The poll watchers see the development as a re-play of the parting of ways from the LDF by a powerful section of Janata Dal (S) led by veteran socialist M P Veerendrakumar over denial of a seat on the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, which was seen to have marred the Left's prospects in parts of the state then.

The Veerendrakumar faction later joined the UDF and is now a partner in the Oommen Chandy government.

Though convulsions in the LDF are certain to boost the rival's morale, the UDF also has problems as a strong section in the key component Kerala Congress -M (KCM) is threatening to take "hard decisions" over the Western Ghats conservation issue.

A party that banks heavily on the support of Christian settler farmers in upland areas, Kerala Congress wants the Centre to issue a notification to ensure that implementation of the Kasturirangan report on the ecologically-degraded Western Ghats would not lead to displacement of settlers.

Though the Congress leadership has prevailed upon the Centre to bring out a notification, the matter is being examined by the Election Commission to see whether the issuance of the order would involve violation of the model code.

The CPI-M has sent loud and clear signals to the disgruntled sections in the KC (M) that they would be accommodated if they came out of the UDF. Similarly, the SJD has been insisting on a seat for it, either Vatakara or Wayanad, both won by the Congress. The Congress is likely to offer Palakkad seat to the SJD. But a section in the Congress is opposed to the party conceding the seats its contested last time to the RSP and SJD.

In 2009, the Congress contested 17 seats and won 13. Two seats were left to the principal ally the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and one to the Kerala Congress (M). The IUML, which will be defending its traditional bastions Malappuram and Ponnani, will be finalising its candidates Monday.

BJP, which has not been an electoral force to reckon with in Kerala, has cleared the candidature of senior leader O Rajagopal in Thiruvananthapuram against Union Minister Shashi Tharoor who is expected to be back in the fray.

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