By T S Sudhir
As I pack my bags to travel to Kerala, I admit it is with a sense of meeting the known. Just about everyone expects the UDF to come to the party, after five years of LDF management. Compare this with elections next door, where the Karuna vs Jaya fight is as exciting as an India-Pak encounter.
I have been part of the all heat and no dust of both the 2001 and 2006 Kerala assembly polls. I remember how a shy A K Antony took over as chief minister a decade ago and five years later, the VS wave overwhelmed Kerala through the Palakkad Gap.
Both were on expected lines. Keralites do not like to spring a surprise at election time. You can say Kerala is a land of equal political opportunity. Since 1977, the state has seen a dissatisfied bunch of voters who have given the thumbs down to the ruling Front every single time. History is obviously God’s own subject.
Senior journalists tell me there is no visible excitement in any part of Kerala, even though polling day is just 12 days away. While that may be to an extent due to strict Election Commission guidelines, it also conveys a sense of overconfidence in the UDF camp that come what may, they will get back to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. And conversely, there is a feeling of having already lost the match before a ball has been bowled in the LDF camp.
For the record though, CPI strongman A B Bardhan has spoken about reversing the trend this time. But what happened at a railway station in Kollam district this week could give him some food for thought. Where Kerala Food minister C Divakaran, a senior CPI leader, while canvassing for votes, reportedly slapped a person on the railway platform just because he said he was an UDF supporter and wouldn’t vote for Divakaran. The frustration is showing, Mr Bardhan.
In a 140-member House, the only point of interest then is the break-up. A sweep normally translates to 100:40. Reasonable enthusiasm for change would mean 90:50. Anything less than 80 is interpreted by political pundits as a moral victory for the opposition.
This election will see one of Kerala’s most popular and charismatic leaders walking into his political sunset. Bid farewell by both the voters and the LDF, it is quite possible VS may not be allowed to even become Leader of Opposition. The LDF will want to project a new leader.