Examining UDF’s Downfall in Kerala
A high voltage state-wide campaign raising the Sabarimala women’s entry issue and gold smuggling scam failed to better the fortunes of the Congress-led UDF at the hustings,as it lacked a strong state leadership to take on
the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF on the ground. The unceremonious fall of the UDF in the assembly elections is also seen as a setback to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who had tried to project the UDF as the credible force
that could counter the rise of the BJP in the southern state during his campaign.
The results also showed that the high command’s decision to replace many candidates with fresh faces was rejected by the people. The Congress state unit had to grapple with “I” and “A” groups soon after the candidate selection for the Assembly elections.
Senior party leader K Sudhakaran openly attacked AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal and veterans
Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy, alleging that they were responsible for all the trouble the party found itself in.
A minority consolidation in Muslim and Christian dominated pockets in many districts in response to BJP’s aggressive election campaign worked against the Congress-led alliance. To check the rise of the BJP in the elections, the minorities preferred the LDF over the UDF.
Though the UDF, led by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala fought the
polls banking on the Sabarimala issue and levelling charges of corruption and nepotism against the CPI(M)-led alliance, the results proved that they did not have much of an impact.
The UDF, which swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, had expected to script a spectacular victory, raising the alleged
high handedness of the LDF government in Sabarimala following a Supreme Court verdict, allowing women in the menstrual age group in the Lord Ayyappa temple.
As UDF and BJP strengthened their campaigns against LDF over gold smuggling scam,allegedly involving some government functionaries, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the CPI(M) countered them politically,alleging that BJP was using various central investigating agencies to malign and destabilise the constitutionally elected government in the state.
Besides, the LDF afflicted a severe blow on the UDF in its bastions in the Christian dominated central Kerala,
capturing many seats from the Congress-led alliance. The CPI(M)’s decision to add Kerala Congress(M) led by
Jose K Mani into the LDF fold, just months ahead of the polls, also helped the ruling alliance attract Christian votes.
The results showed the UDF losing ground in Thrissur, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts,dominated by the Christian community. In a bid to wean away Christian votes from the UDF, the CPI(M), during the election campaign, had raked up the growing clout of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in the UDF.
The Christian voters doubted the secular credentials of the Muslim League and UDF after their alleged understanding
with radical Islamic outfits in the local body polls in December.
The Christian community in Kerala was upset with the IUML after its leader Sadiq Ali Thangal wrote an article in the party mouthpiece supporting the conversion of the Hagia Sophia church in Turkey to a mosque.
Rubbing salt to the wounds, Chandy Oommen, son of former Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, also justified the
conversion of Hagia Sophia church to a mosque. Oommen, addressing a function organised by the Youth League, IUML’s youth outfit, had said thousands of churches were converted into dance bars and no one had any issue.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) had hit out at Chandy Oommen for his speech.
KCBC in a statement had said it was not right to “cultivate communalism” for garnering votes in elections. The election campaign of Rahul Gandhi, representing Wayanad seat in the Lok Sabha, mainly focused on the alleged
policy failures of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, leading to economic crisis in the country.
In the poll meetings, he had hit out at the Union Government over the alleged flawed implementation of GST and
the hike in petrol and diesel prices to garner secular and minority votes in the favour of the UDF.
He also highlighted the UDF poll promises of ambitious Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), a proposed minimum income guarantee scheme for the poor in the state, in a bid to counter the populist measures adopted by the ruling LDF,including distribution of food kits free of cost and attractive social security pension.
Gandhi had promised the people that the NYAY scheme will be “tested” in the southern state if the party-led UDF was
voted to power. Pushing the scheme very hard at election meetings, he had said every poor person in Kerala would get Rs 6,000 a month-Rs 72,000 a year- without fail every month into their bank accounts.
However, this did not cut ice with the people, who were already assured by the LDF of prompt payout of increased
social security pensions and other welfare measures.
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