With flood rehabilitation and Sabarimala controversy dominating the political narrative in Kerala, the battle for winning Lok Sabha is going to be an intense one between the LDF and the UDF. In a few constituencies, the NDA will make it a triangular fight, making it vital for the other two fronts to ensure that their vote bank does not split.
As the CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan announced the parties 16 candidates, what came as a surprise is the fact that four of them are sitting MLAs.
AM Arif from Alappuzha, Veena George from Pathanamthitta, A Pradeep Kumar from Kozhikode and PV Anwar from Ponnani are among the sitting MLAs who figure in the CPI(M) candidate list. The CPI too is fielding two sitting MLAs.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan however defended the party's move and said that this was not the first time sitting MLAs were contesting Lok Sabha elections. â€śDuring the last Lok Sabha elections, MA Baby, who was an MLA at that time had contested. In 2009, 4 MLAs from UDF had also contested the elections,â€ť Kodiyeri pointed out.
The CPI(M) state secretary went on to emphasise the fact that winning Lok Sabha elections was crucial for the party. â€śIt is necessary to increase the representation of the Left in the Parliament in order for the Left to participate more in national politics. It is also necessary to have a secular leadership in Delhi,â€ť stated Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
J Prabhash, a political analyst and a retired professor of Political Science at Kerala University feels that, as far as the CPI(M) is concerned, this is an election that they â€ścannot afford to loseâ€ť, given the current political climate in the state (referring to the attempts made by the BJP to gain prominence in Kerala).
Speaking to TNM, Prabhash said, â€śThis is a crucial election for the Left and they are looking to win maximum MPâ€™s as they can and that can said to be one reason why they are fielding these sitting MLAs, who have done good work in their respective constituencies. This decision one that was taken with the intention of winning.â€ť
According to political critic MA Pierson, CPI(M)'s move to field sitting MLAs is rather unusual. He also believes that the decision goes against political ethics, as the MLAs will not complete their terms.
â€śThese MLAs have specific duties and responsibilities to discharge. They were elected by the people. They still have 2 more years to complete their term. But before they can complete their term, they are contesting for MP seats. This is unethical and unfair to their voters,â€ť he says.
Pierson adds that the main reason for this decision by the party was to stay relevant in the Lok Sabha.
â€śThese elections are very crucial for them. They cannot lose their relevance in the Parliament. They want to secure a few seats and this is why they have chosen to field all good candidates. The candidates they have chosen have carried out good work in their constituencies, they have the support of the people. This experiment to win more seats is why they have chosen to give tickets to sitting MLAs as well. This is a dangerous game they wonâ€™t have control over if they lose,â€ť Pierson says.
Veteran Political analyst BRP Bhaskar too agrees that the partyâ€™s decision is unusual.
â€śNot just in Kerala, in most states, fielding many incumbent MLAs is a rare thing. But as the CPI(M) explains, their sole criterion for this election is winnability. The sitting MLAs have won in the assembly elections. This shows evidence of their acceptability and the party is merely cashing in. Even MLAs such as PV Anwar who lacks a clean image and is mired in controversy has been given a ticket. This is because according to their analysis, he must have chances of winning from the constituency,â€ť Bhaskar says.
The CPI(M), BRP Bhaskar believes, is also fighting this elections with their back to the wall, which explains their unusual move.
â€śCPI(M)â€™s strength has come down nationally in the recent years. They are in a bad shape in West Bengal and Tripura. Kerala seems to be the partyâ€™s last stronghold. This move is an exercise is to improve their position nationally or at least hold the present position,â€ť he adds.
This also explains why all the 20 seats have been split between the CPI and CPI(M), according to Bhaskar.
The 16 candidates who will be contesting are KP Satheesh Chandran from Kasaragod, PK Sreemathi from Kannur, P Jayarajan from Vadakara, A Pradeep Kumar from Kozhikode, VP Sanu from Malappuram, Dr PK Biju from Alathur, MB Rajesh from Palakkad, Innocent from Chalakudy, P Rajeev from Ernakulam, VN Vasavan from Kottayam, AM Arif from Alappuzha, Veena George from Pathanamthitta, KN Balagopal from Kollam and A Sambath from Attingal. PV Anwar and Joyce George will be contesting independently from Ponnani and Idukki respectively.