Gimme red, shrieked Kerala for five years

By making scams, scandals and corruption its middle name, the UDF gave the state on a platter to the LDF.

 |  3-minute read |   20-05-2016
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United Democratic Front.

United. What a joke.

Democratic. Too much of it.

Front. It is merely a front that all is well.

The UDF dug its electoral grave not on May 16, 2016. It dug it through 2013, 2014 and 2015. By making scams, scandals and corruption its middle name, the UDF gave Kerala on a platter to the Left Democratic Front (LDF).

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Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy made it worse by taking on the Kerala Pradesh Congress committee (KPCC) chief VM Sudheeran who was against distribution of tickets to tainted politicians. The chief minister made it a prestige issue by threatening not to contest if taint was made an excuse to deny tickets. By giving in to Chandy's threat, it was as if the Congress went into the campaign with the tagline "Daag acche hain". Not a surprise then that the Kerala electorate decided to whitewash the Congress.

In contrast to the Congress infighting, the CPM hit the ground running. Both its stalwarts - VS Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan - had begun the campaign when Congress was still finalising its candidates. Sitaram Yechury also helped the cause by allowing both to contest, postponing the leadership question to another day. The LDF, therefore, looked a more calmer house than the UDF.

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Saritha Nair, prime accused in the "solar scam", was the fourth front in the election. By constantly levelling serious allegations against the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues, Nair chipped away at the carefully crafted image of Chandy. The voters decided to plump for the squeaky clean VS Achuthanandan.

kerala200516mb_052016010357.jpg The LDF supporters celebrate its win in Thiruvananthapuram on May 19, 2016.

It is not that Chandy had nothing to boast about. His development work is praiseworthy and managed to shake off the typical Kerala image of trade unionism and frequent hartals, albeit with some help from the Kerala High Court. The problem was the perception that every development work was also accompanied with kickbacks and commissions.

The implementation of prohibition in a phased manner was expected to be the big ticket achievement of the Chandy government. Though the decision was taken to checkmate Sudheeran, who is a politician cast in the Morarji Desal mould, women all over Kerala welcomed the move. Sadly, the state with the highest per capita consumption of liquor has led to domestic strife and violence.

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But instead of going to town over this decision, the UDF underplayed it during the campaign. The reason was that the leaders feared that any mention of reduction of bars in Kerala would remind the voters of the bar bribery scam in which its finance minister KM Mani had to quit under a cloud. Seldom are elections won by leaders playing on the back foot.

Kerala has shrieked "Gimme red" every five years. This time, the mandate has been given with the hope that issues of governance will not be overshadowed by sleaze and corruption. Most believed that the Kerala 2016 election was an issueless election. The UDF made a song and dance about what it had done in the last five years. But the electorate decided to turn the surround sound off.

Writer

TS Sudhir TS Sudhir @iamtssudhir

The writer is a journalist.

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