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2006: Political conflicts in Kerala
N Muraleedharan in Thiruvananthapuram | December 20, 2006 09:50 IST
Living up to its reputation of alternating between Congress and Communist Party of India - Marxist coalitions every five years, Keralites in 2006 voted the Left Democratic Front to power, unseating the United Democratic Front. And the state entered its Golden Jubilee year with the usual quota of conflicts, controversies and scandals.
If the factional feud in Congress had dominated the state's politics in the previous years, it was the infighting in CPI-M, polarised into rival camps loyal to Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, that often hit the headlines in 2006.
The security goof-up during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh preceded by a hollow e-mail threat, Kannada actress Jaimala's claim of touching the idol of the Sabarimala temple, where women in 10-50 age group are barred and a sex scandal that cost Kerala Congress leader P J Joseph his ministerial berth were some of the other major events that kept Kerala in national focus through the year.
Despite being a state eager to woo investors, the ban on Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola drew flak from the pro-reform lobbies while it was hailed as a bold decision by the pro-Left outfits and environmental groups.
In a state that set a model for public health delivery system, the outbreak of chikungunya in water-logged Alappuzha district, taking a heavy toll exposed the weakness of the system to cope with fresh challenges.
In a exact reversal in 2001 mandate, the LDF swept to power in May defeating the Congress-led UDF headed by Oommen Chandy, winning 99 of the 140 seats in the Assembly.
Apart from the voters' penchant for shift in every five years, the LDF victory was also seen as a triumph of Achuthanandan who had waged a grim inner-party battle to ascertain his long-pending claim to the chief ministership.
The eve of the polls witnessed an unusually open display of factional trends in the state CPI-M, where the powerful section led by state secretary Vijayan had sought to keep Achuthanandan off the electoral scene.
Battling his claim in CPI-M headquarters Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram, Achuthanandan made a spectacular comeback to the electoral arena with the CPI-M central leadership intervening on his behalf, heeding to the public outcry against the manoeuvres of his rivals to keep him off the top post.
Though Achuthanandan made it to the top job, which had often eluded him in the past in the last minute, the group war in the party continues to cast its shadow on the government.
In sharp contrast, the loss of power helped Congress to set its house in order with Chandy consolidating his grip on the party and the UDF.
Down but not out, veteran leader K Karunakaran made a deft move by merging DIC (K) party with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP to salvage the sagging political fortunes of his son K Muraleedharan.
But soon, the father-son duo found themselves again in political limbo with the LDF slamming the doors on them and expelling NCP from the LDF.