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Season of suspense and surprises in Kerala
There seems to be no end to the suspense, surprises and heartburn in Kerala.
Thiruvananthapuram: There seems to be no end to the suspense, surprises and heartburn in Kerala even after the campaign for the April 13 assembly polls moved to top gear with filing of nominations closing by the week-end.
Never before has Kerala witnessed such poll-eve shift of loyalties as last week with a fiery CPM student leader crossing over to Congress, an LDF MLA all of a sudden finding merit in BJP and a Congresswoman becoming the LDF candidate.
The announcement of Congress' candidates list has led to widespread resentment in the party with the losers blaming it on their mentors for failure to secure tickets for them.
One striking image of the LDF campaign in 2006 was that of SFI leader Sindhu Joy leading a student agitation on crutches after she was injured, allegedly in a police lathicharge.
The LDF had projected her as the symbol of the UDF government's use of force to suppress students' stir against privatisation of the education sector and CPM pitted her against Congress leader and then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the assembly polls.
She also unsuccessfully contested the Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat in 2009 against Union Minister K V Thomas.
The 'poster girl' of CPM sprang a surprise last week by quitting the party and joining the Congress.
A national vice-president of CPM s student outfit SFI, Sindhu said she was deeply disappointed with CPM, whose bosses had 'neglected' her over the last several months.
Her first act after deserting CPM was to canvass support for Chandy in his pocket borough Puthupally, where she went hammer and tongs against him five years back.
Seeking to play down Sindu's switch over, CPM dismissed her from the party the very moment she announced her decision to part ways with the Left and join the UDF campaign.
She is now in great demand by UDF contestants all over the state, who think that a young woman like Sindhu could defuse LDF's claim of being the passionate defenders of women's rights and privileges.
"We will certainly make use of her services to the maximum. She is an energetic person, an eloquent speaker and it was out of conviction that she quit CPM and joined Congress," a Congress leader from Kottayam said.
The CPM too had a catch this time in Jaya Dali, a young Congress woman, who left the party protesting her "continuous neglect" by the leadership.
No sooner did she announce her decision to quit Congress than CPM made her its candidate for Kattakkada near the state capital, pulling out the candidate it initially identified for the segment.
Though not as widely known as Sindhu Joy, physically challenged Jaya is known for her oratorial skills and has campaigned for Congress with great zest since her school days.
CPM leaders justified the decision to make Jaya the LDF candidate, holding that such 'tactical' moves are in order in a keen political battle like this.
Perhaps, the most surprising poll season conversion is that of former bureaucrat and LDF MLA Alphons Kannamthanam, who embraced BJP and straightaway, got into its national executive.
Kannamthanam, who hit the headlines in 1990s by ordering demolition of illegal buildings in Delhi as Development Commissioner, resigned from IAS and was elected to the Kerala assembly as an LDF-Independent from Kanjirapally in 2006.
This time, LDF planned to put him up again from Poonjar segment, close to this sitting seat but he declined, saying he did not intend to run for state polls again as he was keen to use his talents at the national level.
According to Kannamthanam, it was BJP leaders who sent feelers to him with the offer of giving a role to him in their developmental initiatives.
Besides his successful record in civil service, BJP also finds it important that a Christian belonging to an influential church denomination has joined the party unmindful of its image as a component of 'Hindutva' parivar.
Though CPM has dismissed as "insignificant individual decisions" the desertion of 'independents' nurtured by them as part of its strategy of expanding its support base outside its traditional constituencies, political observers here see a pattern in the process as most of them are from minority communities.
Only a few months back, another LDF MLA Manjalamkuzhi Ali quit the Left camp alleging high-handedness by sections in the CPM leadership. He has since then joined Indian Union Muslim League and is contesting as UDF candidate from Malappuram district.
About two years ago, CPM lost two of its minority faces when former Lok Sabha members A P Abdullakutty from Kannur and K S Manoj from Alappuzha resigned from the party and joined Congress. Abdullakutty was immediately allowed to contest a bypoll which he won and is again back in the fray this time.
Apart from differences with party leaders, both Abdullakutty and Manoj had raised the issue of CPM's approach towards religious faith.
The 'rectification document' adopted by CPM about a year ago to reinforce the Marxist moorings of party functionaries has insisted the 'lead comrades' should refrain from open display of their religious loyalties by participating in rituals and ceremonies.
Before quitting the party, Manoj said he was a believer and church-goer and it would be difficult for him to abide by the party's diktat on the issue of faith. He also said materialistic ideologies ran against the ethos and spirit of Indian culture and its religious plurality.
Interestingly, after parting ways with CPM, Sindhu Joy also said she was a believer but she had refrained from going to church for prayers, fearing it would antagonise party bosses.
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