Though the Kerala’s assembly elections are still over a month away, but the two main alliances in the state are battle ready. The ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the Left Democratic Front (LDF) have announced their candidates. Kerala will elect a new 140-member legislature on May 16.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is widely believed to emerge as a new force in the southernmost state where power has been traditionally shared by the UDF and LDF. On the expected lines, the LDF was the first to name the candidates.
The NDA – which in Kerala primarily means BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena – was the second to finish the task. The UDF has to finalise its candidates in three constituencies in north Kerala.
The UDF is led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who will contest for a record 11th time from his pocket borough Puthupally in Kottayam district.
“Everything is ready for us. We are seeking people’s mandate to become the first government to retain power (in Kerala),” he said. “Our agenda of care and development will be our strength.”
Confusion still reigns in the LDF as to who their leader will be.
Arch rivals former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan and CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, are mustering their supporters to ensure they don’t lose out in any leadership tussle.
“Once the elections are over, the leader will be selected,” said 92 year old Achuthanandan, when asked if he will be the chief minister if the LDF wins.
The BJP had performed well in only three seats in 2011. But the doubling of its seats in the 2015 local body elections has boosted its confidence.
The party has fielded all its top leaders, including state president Kummanem Rajashekeran. “This time things will be different,” Rajashekeran said.
With their candidates named, the three fronts are now finalizing their campaign strategy.
Candidates who have already begun their campaign include comedy actor Jagadish of the Congress who is taking on two of his colleagues from the film industry in the Pathanapuram constituency in Kollam.
He is pitted against former minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar of the LDF and another actor-turned-politician Bheemen Reghu of the BJP. Former Indian cricketer S. Sreesanth is another ‘glamour’ candidate of the BJP – for the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram constituency. He arrives here on Wednesday to start his campaign.
An interesting turn to Kerala’s elections was provided on Monday by a party other than the three political fronts. The AIADMK, led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, said it will contest seven seats in Kerala. The party said its fielding Biju Ramesh, the whistle blower liquor baron, from Thiruvananthapuram.
In a series of disclosures, Ramesh had alleged that he had made a payment of one crore rupees on behalf of the Kerala Bar Owners Association to ministers in the Oomen Chandy government for renewal of bar licences.
The state unit of Trinamool Congress was also preparing to throw themselves into the ring after party supremo Mamata Banerjee announced at a news conference in Kolkata last month that she had plans to address a number of public rallies in Kerala to expose what she described as the “two faces of the Congress and CPM.”