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Kerala: LDF victory wakeup call for UDF
N Muraleedharan | October 03, 2005 12:54 IST
Seen as the semi-finals for the assembly elections just six months away, the opposition Left Democratic Front has demonstrated its might in civic polls in Kerala dealing a crushing blow to ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front, whose electoral graph has been dipping since the last Lok Sabha elections.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-headed coalition, which tied up with the newly-formed Democratic Indira Congress (K) led by former Congress leader K Karunakaran, captured over 70 per cent of three-tier panchayats and a vast majority of urban bodies.
The outcome has dented the claims of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala that UDF was on a revival path after the exit of Karunakaran and his son K Muraleedharan, who was often dubbed as the thorn in Congress' flesh in Kerala.
The steady decline in the electoral graph of the UDF after it came to power with an impressive tally of 99 seats in the 140-member assembly four years back is seen as a result of inept political management by the key players, central leadership's failure to tackle the inner-strife in Congress sternly but tactfully and the government's inability to live
Though the latest round of defeat is followed by the usual soul-searching and promises of self-correction on the part of Congress and UDF, the magnitude of the loss is so huge that it is a tough task for the ruling coalition to regain the lost ground.
The LDF's victory was emphatic as it bagged 12 of the 14 district panchayats, all the five city corporations, most of the municipalities and a vast majority of the village and block panchayats.
While LDF established its supremacy in all the regions of the state, UDF could hold on only to Muslim League-dominated Malappuram and the Kerala Congress (Mani) stronghold Kottayam district, also the home-turf of Oommen Chandy.
Despite Congress launching a broadside against the party floated by Karunakaran, the war-scarred veteran has been able prove himself as a force to reckon with by making handsome gains in many parts of the state due to his party's tactical ties with the LDF.
The Bharatiya Janata Party was able surprise gains in some pockets of the state as well with UDF and LDF accusing the other of helping the saffron party's creditable showing.
Putting up a brave face, Oommen Chandy had held that the UDF could regain some of its lost ground compared to the last Lok Sabha polls when Congress drew a blank and UDF had to contend with just a single Lok Sabha seat from the state.
The internal assessment of Congress, however, is that the party had to strain its every sinew to put up a creditable
The party leaders acknowledged the organizational weaknesses and the need to win back the communities that had got alienated from UDF in the last four years.
Despite its sterling performance, new alliances and tactics have thrown up problems in LDF also.
Though CPI(M)-DIC(K) tie-up worked out well in many places, a section in CPI-M loyal to party strongman V S Achuthanandan is less enthusiastic in taking forward the new alliance.
In what is seen as part of his resolve to carry on with his fight against the state party set-up dominated by Pinarayi Vijayan, Achuthanandan had kept on reminding the rank and file that the Marxists in Kerala could not be oblivious of
Also, Achuthanandan did not hide his reservation over LDF's green signals to local level units that they could work out power-sharing arrangements with DIC (K) wherever it is essential to keep UDF out of power in the panchayat and civic bodies polls.
LDF partners like the Communist Party of India and Revolutionary Socialist Party are also uncomfortable with the bonhomie between CPI-M and DIC(K), fearing that the Karunakaran-led party would eat into their share of seats in the assembly polls.
Though the civic body polls have been the dress rehearsal before the assembly polls, the Lok Sabha by-election from