The fierce two-month long electioneering for the May 16 Assembly polls would come to an end on Saturday in Kerala where Congress led UDF and CPI-M head LDF were engaged in a neck and neck race, with BJP-NDA trying to break the bi-polar politics.
A total of 2.61 crore electorate are expected to cast their votes to elect 140 law makers in the assembly out of 1,203 candidates in the fray, of which 109 are women. If it is a do-or-die battle for the rival Fronts, for BJP it is a prestigious fight to realise its long cherished dream of opening its maiden account in the assembly.
As for UDF, the poll is crucial not only to retain power in the state but a success would also present an opportunity for the Congress to stage a sort of comeback at the national level after its loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
On the other hand, a drubbing in the polls for the LDF would spell doom for Communist Front especially at a time when they are trying hard for a comeback in West Bengal, once a Left bastion. The last leg of poll campaign saw an unprecedented number of national leaders beelining to canvass for their respective parties. Though campaign started on state-centric issues like solar and bar bribery scams, it took new turn as days prolonged. The campaign witnessed sparring between leaders of BJP, Congress and CPI-M after Prime Minster Narendra Modi, who virtually stormed the state during the three-day whirlwind campaign, kicked up a row over his comparison of Kerala with Somalia. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, heading the UDF campaign, was quick to seize the remark to hit back at BJP and Modi, saying “the Prime Minister has insulted the people of Kerala”. Electioneering also saw war of words between BJP and Chandy over the expenses born for bringing back the nurses from strife torn Libya to Kerala. AICC Chief Sonia Gandhi, CWC member A K Antony, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI National Secretary Sudhakar Reddy, CPI-M leader and Tripura Chief Minister Nirpuan Chakravorty, Former Prime Minister Deva Gowda, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar were among the prominent politicians who campaigned for their respective candidates. The BJP this time is fighting along with its key ally Bharath Dharam Jana Sena, (BDJS), a new party formed by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, a powerful outfit of backward Ezhava community. Both Congress and CPI-M had already dismissed the claim that BJP-BDJS tie-up would garner the Ezhava community votes. The UDF, which came to power in 2011 on the slogan of ‘development and care’, focus to script a new history in the state with a verdict in its favour for ‘continuation’ of the government. LDF leaders throughout the campaign had attacked the UDF over the corruption cases including solar and bar scams that have rocked the UDF government with some ministers, including, Chandy, being accused of corruption. Besides Chandy, Congress Ministers in the fray include Ramesh Chennithala, Adoor Prakesh, K Babu, A P Anilkumar, P K Jayakshmi, K C Joseph, V S Sivakumar and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan. Prominent leaders of Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest partner in ruling UDF, who are in the fray include ministers P K Kunhalikutty, P K Abdu Rabb, M K Muneer, Ebrahim Kunju and Manjalam Kuzhi Ali. The 82-year-old Kerala Congress (M) supremo and former Finance Minister K M Mani, who had to resign over the bar bribery scam, is seeking election from his home constituency Pala in Kottayam, for the 13th consecutive time. In the LDF camp, 93-year-old CPI-M veteran V S Achuthanandan, politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, Central Committee members Thomas Issac, E P Jayarajan are some of the prominent leaders in the fray. In CPI, former minister and party leader in the Assembly C Divakaran and former minister Mullakara Ratnakaran are the party’s prominent candidates. Besides the seasoned politicians media person and journalist M V Nikesh Kumar, Veena George, and media critic Sebastian Paul are also in the fray as LDF candidates. Congress is contesting in 87 seats, while its key partner IUML in 24, Kerala Congress (M) 15, RSP 5, JD(U) 7, CMP 1 and KC (J) 1. CPI-M, heading the LDF, has put up 92 candidates, CPI 27, JD (S) 5, NCP 4, Congress 1, Democratic Kerala Congress 4, INL 3, CMP 1, Kerala Congress (Syric) 1, Kerala Congress (B), 1 and RSP (L) 1. BJP is contesting in 97 constituencies while its main partner BDJS in 37 and the remaining by its small partners. The UDF came to power in 2001 with a wafer thin majority of 72 seats. The LDF then got 68 seats. There will be 21,498 polling stations.