CPI(M) fights many battles to retain power in Kerala
If the April 6 assembly poll was an existential struggle for the opposition Congress- led UDF, it was nothing but a chance to script history for the ruling CPI(M)-headed LDF by bucking the over four decade-old trend of alternate front governments in Kerala.
When the Left Democratic Front seems to be heading for a clean sweep and retaining power, it scripteda new chapter in the state's electoral history and also ensured that the red flag will continue to fly in the lone Left bastion in the country.
Though the official announcement is yet to be made, the CPI(M) led LDF has won 70 seats of the total of 140 and is reportedly leading in 29, while Congress-headed UDF opposition has won 32 and is leading in nine. The BJP led NDA has drawn a blank.
Befitting reply to Congress and BJP
“The historic victory is a recognition of the LDF government’s five year rule. It is the people’s victory. They trusted us and we trusted them. The election was a big political fight forus,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Kannur.
With this victory, the CPI(M) has given a befitting reply to the opposition Congress and BJP, which had often taken swipes at the Marxist party, saying it would be wiped out from Kerala like in West Bengal and Tripura after the assembly election and Pinarayi Vijayan would be the country's last Communist Chief Minister.
Through the results, the marxist party decimated its traditional political rival-- Congress from the state’s political landscape.
Not a cakewalk victory
But the victory was not handed over on a silver platter to the Left party and the front as they had to battle a plethora of negative factors, including corruption charges, the arrest of its former party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son in money laundering and narcotic case and the incumbency factor to get the desired results.
The gold smuggling case, relating to the seizure of about 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore from a diplomatic baggage on July5 last year, had rattled the government for days as fingers were pointed at the ChiefMinister’s office.
The dollar case, an offshoot of the gold case, relates to the alleged smuggling of USD 1,90,000 (equivalentto Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram to Muscat in Oman.
Though the central agencies probing the two cases had arrested Vijayan’s close confidante and former principal secretary M Sivasankar, which had cast a shadow over the ruling party’s hopes of retaining power, the resounding victory in the recently concluded civic polls reinfused confidence in the CPI(M).
If the gold and dollar smuggling cases were unexpected weapons for the opposition to pin the government and CPI(M) ahead of the polls, the Marxist party used the opportunity to play a victim card, claiming that their government was subjected to a never before witch hunt by the central agencies and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
The Sabarimala women’s entry issue had pushed the ruling party into a deep political crisis three years ago as the government faced stiff opposition from right wing groups against the latter's decision to implement the 2018 apex court verdict, permitting women of all age groups into the hill shrine.
When the CPI(M) and the LDF had suffered mass drubbing during the last Lok Sabha polls and had to be satisfied with only one seat, the political rivals wrote off the Left party, saying that it would be difficult for them to resurrect.
Rising like a phoenix
But the CPI(M)-headed front proved its detractors wrong and rose like a phoenix by winning a series of Assembly bypolls and the resounding victory in the December civic polls.
The leadership of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the party’s senior politburo member and the longest serving secretary of the party's state unit, was one of the major factors considered to have helped CPI(M) achieve this historic success.
Though he was initially criticised for his party secretary-like ruling style, Vijayan managed to create a mass leader image later through various welfare schemes, empathetic approach towards marginalised sections and effective interventions when the state was struck by calamities like the 2018 floods, which was the worstin a century,Ockhi cyclone, the Nipah outbreak and the COVID-19 pandemic.
It may be for the first time in its history that the CPI (M) in Kerala had faced an election more projecting and branding an individual than focussing on its policies.
The critical stand adopted by the CPI(M) and the Chief Minister, against the BJP and RSS seemed to have helped it win the confidence of the minority community, especially Muslims, who are dominant in the northern districts of the state.
Traditionally, the minorities used to rally behind the Congress-UDF during elections, but a change in this trend was evident in many constituencies this time.
The Marxist party also took on the Congress-UDF for its alleged soft approach towards the right wing parties, thus creating an image that they were the only party which stood strongly with the minorities.
Cashing on CAA and ‘Love Jihad’
The CPI(M) also tried to cash in on their fears and concerns on various issues like Constitutional Amendment Act and ‘Love Jihad’ row, kicked up by the BJP.
By accepting the Kerala Congress(M), the long-term partner of the UDF, which has a strong presence in Central Kerala, in its fold, the Marxist party made deep inroads into the Christian community, which comprises 18.38 per cent of Kerala's total population.
Populist poll promises like pension for homemakers, raising of conventional welfare pension and distributing provision kits to all ration card holders seems to have worked in favour of the ruling party and front in the crucial assembly polls.