South Indian state of Kerala gears up for polls. The importance of being earnest small parties in Kerala…writes Sanu George
With assembly elections round the corner, small political parties in Kerala have begun scrambling for their place in the sun. During elections, they punch much beyond their weight, though remaining irrelevant most of the other times.
Those that would see a rejuvenation in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), at least in their efforts to attract attention, include the Janathiyapathiya Samreskhena Samithi (JSS) and the Communist Marxist Party (CMP), both of which have split vertically in the last one year, with rival factions of each moving towards the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front( LDF).
But the going is not likely to be easy. Niether of these parties have any representation in the assembly, even after the JSS contested four seats and the CMP three in the 2011 assembly polls.
K.K. Shaju, who is in the JSS faction in the ruling UDF, said that he had been told by the coalition that it would be difficult to give JSS seats.
“They have said that a seat for me could be considered, but the catch is that I have to join the Congress,” Shaju, who won twice earlier but had lost in the 2011 polls, told IANS.
The CMP, floated by former veteran CPI-M leader M.V.Raghavan, a state minister in the earlier UDF cabinet, saw a split in the party after Raghavan passed away in 2014.
In 2011, the CMP was given three seats but lost all of them, including Raghavan’s. The party now is led by State Planning Board member C.P.John, who too lost in the 2011 polls.
Another party — Kerala Congress (Pillai) — led by R.Balakrishna Pillai — a former minister and one of the founders of the UDF in the early eighties, was given two seats to contest in 2011. It won one. Early this year, following difference with the UDF, the party moved out. But it has not been taken in by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the other major alliance in the state.
Six-time legislator P.C. George, who lost his legislatorship last month for defying a directive of his party (Kerala Congress-Mani, an ally of the UDF), has revived his Kerala Congress (Secular). But it is doubtful if he would be accommodated as an ally in the LDF.
“To win in my Poonjar constituency, I do not need the support of anyone, but since I will remain only a legislator, I may not contest this time,” remarked George, who recently met CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan but did not get any assurance.
In the LDF, the smaller parties also include the Indian National League which was given three seats to contest last time and the Congress-S that got one seat. Neither of them could win.
Fearing what they perceive would be shoddy treatment by the Congress party leadership in Kerala, the allies of the UDF had expressed their fears to party president Sonia Gandhi earlier this week when she was on a one-day visit to the state. They said they should be “treated with respect” when seat distribution talks begin.
“We told her that there should be a fair distribution of seats,” said former legislator and Kerala Congress (Jacob) party leader Johnny Nellore, who last won the polls in 2001.
The lone legislator of his party, Anup Jacob, is the State Minister for Food and Civil Supplies.
A senior leader, who did not want to be named summed up the dilemma: “The small parties are the bane of the fronts. They dominate when the margin between the rival fronts are close. Even a single party legislator has to be made a minister.They win with the votes of the majority party, but run their portfolio as their personal fiefdom.”
There are eight parties in the UDF while the LDF has six with George’s and Pillai’s parties in neither of the fronts.