Lok Sabha 2019
Nine sitting MLAs are contesting in the Lok Sabha elections in Kerala – three for the UDF and six for the LDF.
C Divakaran, Adoor Prakash, K Muraleedharan and Hibi Eden.

At a media workshop held at the KPCC office a week ago, Congress sitting MLA K Muraleedharan had thrashed the Left parties for fielding sitting MLAs in the Lok Sabha elections.

“It seems that there is a dearth of people,” he had said in a satirical tone. He reiterated the same stand while campaigning for UDF candidate NK Premachandran in Kollam. “It is out of helplessness,” Muraleedharan said then.

Ironically, the Congress has now picked Muraleedharan to contest from the Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency in Kozhikode. He currently represents Vattiyoorkav constituency in Thiruvananthapuram in the Assembly.

With this, the number of sitting MLAs contesting in the Lok Sabha election has become nine. Four MLAs – Veena George, AM Ariff and A Pradeep Kumar – for the CPI(M), C Divakaran and Chittayam Gopakumar for the CPI, and Hibi Eden, Adoor Prakash and Muraleedharan for the Congress have been announced as contesting for Lok Sabha seats. Another sitting MLA in the LDF list is Nilambur MLA PV Anwar who won as a Left backed independent.

This is unprecedented in the political history of the state. If any of the nine MLAs go on to win, those many Assembly constituencies in the state will go for by-polls.

On this, KPCC President Mullappally Ramachandran had told TNM in an interview, “We have tried this earlier and we have succeeded too. We don’t see any reason for not fielding sitting MLAs.”

While this could be viewed as undesirable in a democracy considering the enormous election process, on the other hand, it challenges the verdict of the people in a previous election and forces them to face another election. It is also a denial of opportunities for fresh faces or budding politicians. More disturbing is the fact that there seems to be a crisis in the political parties in grooming youth, after the first or second line leaders, to be popular and accepted among the masses. 

There are only 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.

“Given this fact, fielding nine sitting MLAs implies nearly 50% of the candidates,” says political analyst Apppukuttan Vallikunnu.

“This is unusual as far as Kerala is concerned, though we used to see this in north India. The practice in Kerala in the past was to field candidates to communicate party policies to the people. For example, a Left candidate in Palakkad would be one from the Kisan Sabha, a representative of the farmers. In Kollam, the Left candidate would largely represent the cashew-nut workers and the Congress in turn would choose opponents accordingly. But in this election, we are seeing a trend to win the election by any means, either through spending money or by any other means,” he says.

Appukuttan had been an active part of the CPI(M) and was the party’s ideologue, but later parted ways.

The political analyst also believes that changing focus from issues to individuals is unwarranted. “We have been criticising the BJP for focusing on Narendra Modi and suppressing relevant issues. The same happens when prominent leaders are fielded rather than making it a fight between issues or ideologies. Projecting leaders will lead to dictatorship in due course. The political parties are trying to do some magic with this. This is a betrayal of the people; it is very strange,” he adds.

Appukuttan recalls the nomination of Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K Mani, the then sitting MP of Kottayam, to the Rajya Sabha in June 2018 when his Lok Sabha tenure hadn’t ended. “Since then, who is there to look after the affairs of Kottayam?” asks Appukuttan.

Senior journalist and political analyst MG Radhakrishnan believes it is a reflection of political parties losing faith in themselves and in their ideologies. “There are two things to it; one it is something new or something that rarely happened in the 1980s. Secondly, this is manifestation of losing faith in themselves, their ideologies as well as in the people. Hence, they are playing it safe; not because major political parties don’t have ample number of people to choose from. This is a symptom of their weakness.”

Another political analyst, who didn’t want to be named, sees more danger in fielding millionaires like PV Anwar. The CPI(M) has handpicked Anwar, the Left-backed independent MLA from Nilambur, to contest in Ponnani. “He has openly said he will spend the crores he has earned for the people. We have seen industrialists like Ratan Tata who are billionaires, but we have never seen them stand for elections.”

Also Read: Fielding 4 sitting MLAs for LS 2019 shows how vital winning is for Kerala CPI(M)