The fortunes of Kerala's political fronts are fluctuating ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. It was the Left Democratic Front (LDF) which seemed to have the edge sometime back, while it is the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) which appears to have wrested the initiative for now. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for many years now an electoral non-entity, is also being looked at as a possible runner-up in any of the 20 seats which make up for Kerala's share in parliament's lower house. It would be a big swing, considering that the saffron party is yet to open an account even in the 140-member Kerala legislative assembly.
Cut to two months back. The LDF at that point of time looked like it was romping home and drastically improving its tally of four Lok Sabha seats it won in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. But a smooth seat-sharing process with its allies and a political coup engineered by the UDF seems to have changed all that, swinging the pendulum of fortune in favour of the Congress-led front. However, given the vagaries of Indian politics, especially elections in the world's largest democracy, it isn't all smooth sailing for the UDF, which sent 16 MPs to the Lok Sabha in 2009.
Just when it appeared that the UDF was on a solid wicket, things went for a toss last week when the Kerala High Court came down heavily on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in a land grab case where his former gun man Salim Raj is one of the accused. The Chandy-led ruling dispensation has claimed that it was their own government which had insisted on a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the affair and that there was nothing to hide in the matter.
But a stinging remark by the high court, which expressed surprise about Chandy employing staffers with criminal links, appears to have set the cat among the pigeons, especially after the LDF chose to make the observation a top election issue. To counter this, Chandy has now approached the high court to get these adverse remarks expunged. The other blow to the UDF came Monday when the CBI flatly rejected the request of the Kerala government for a CBI probe into the infamous T.P. Chandrasekharan murder case, in which three leaders of the CPI-M have been convicted and sentenced to life term.
The UDF has been playing up this sensational case and milking it in its election campaign. The front has been seeking votes in the name of putting an end to the "politics of murder" propagated by the CPI-M. The LDF has had its own share of stumbling and bumbling after riding a political high until a couple of months back. Its leading component, the CPI-M, for the first time in several years chose to field five non-party candidates out of the 15 constituencies which the party is contesting. This move has given enough ammunition for the UDF to go hammer and tongs against the Marxists - a strategy which seems to be paying off for the UDF.
Then there was the shocking development when the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), a more than three decades old constituent of the LDF, jumping fence and joining the rival front. The UDF was only more than willing to accommodate the RSP. The deserting party has been handed the prestigious Kollam seat where N.K. Premachandran, RSP's best face, will take on CPI-M Politburo member and senior legislator MA Baby.
Incidentally, of the 20 seats in the state, the fight for the Kollam seat has by now been described as the most prestigious for both rival fronts. The political pendulum has swung thus far and right now the UDF appears to have the edge. But with just nine more days left for polling, it remains to be seen how much more the pendulum will swing and more importantly, in whose favour.