Monday, July 21, 2008

Delhi developments land small parties in trouble

The political crisis at the Centre has upset the calculations of some of Kerala's small parties, mostly breakaway factions of various entities. They now have to make fresh plans to ensure their survival.

The State has a plethora of small parties, all breakaway factions of parties which saw better days in the past. Some of these factions were in the process of migration to other parties. The new national equations will compel them to review their plans.

Some of the small parties have been aligned with the Left Democratic Front or the United Democratic Front since long. As constituents of the fronts, which have been alternating in power, they command influence far in excess of their strength. Despite their weak base the fronts have been ready to carry them along as they have pockets of influence and are credited with the ability to tilt the balance in closely fought elections.

When the UDF was in power, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy tried to cut to size the Kerala Congress factions led by TM Jacob and R. Balakrishna Pillai. Both pulled out of the alliance. On the eve of the Assembly elections, the Congress wooed them back.

When the LDF came to power, the CPI-M denied Cabinet representation to the Congress (Socialist), which later became part of the National Congress Party, and to the Kerala Congress (Secular), which had only one member each in the Assembly. Both the parties are now out of the LDF.

The NCP's legislative strength rose to two when K. Karunakaran's Democratic Indira Congress merged in that party. Yet the LDF threw it out of the alliance since the CPI-M's central leadership did not favour any truck with the Karunakaran faction.

The secular credentials of the Janata Dal (S) became suspect in the eyes of the LDF when its Karnataka unit broke its alliance with the Congress and entered into a power-sharing arrangement with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The move was spearheaded by HD Kumaraswamy, son of the party's national president and former Prime Minister, HD Deva Gowda.

The Karnataka development embarrassed the party's Kerala unit. Its president, MP Veerendrakumar, is a member of the Lok Sabha. The party also has three members in the Assembly. They include Transport Minister Mathew T. Thomas and Veerendrakumar's son, MV Shreyamskumar. They were all elected as LDF candidates.

In a bid to save its membership of the LDF, the State unit disowned Deve Gowda's leadership. Thereafter Veerendrakumar negotiated for its merger in Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party. Yadav having gone to the United Progressive Alliance government's rescue when the Left Front withdrew support to it, he has no option but to drop the merger plan.

It is not clear how the new developments will affect the fortunes of A. Neelalohitadasan Nadar, who broke away from the Janata Dal (S) some time ago and is now in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party. A Janata Dal (S) nominee in the EK Nayanar Ministry, Neelalohitadasan Nadar had to quit following allegations of sexual harassment, levelled by Nalini Netto, an IAS officer, and Pragati Srivastava, an Indian Forest Service officer. In the Srivastava case, he was convicted. His appeal against the decision is pending. The Netto case is still before the trial court.

The Delhi developments have enhanced the BSP's clout. CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat was in Lucknow recently to make friends with Mayawati. All this may not help Neelalohitadasan Nadar since the LDF may not be willing to do business with him in view of the pending cases.

Another person whose fate hangs in the balance is Karunakaran's son, K Muraleedharan. He did not return to the Congress with his father and remains president of the NCP's State unit.

The NCP is a constituent of the UPA, and its national president, Sharad Pawar, is Agriculture Minister in the Manmohan Singh government. Muraleedharan feels that his interests will be best served by joining the LDF rather than the UDF. However, Pawar does not want to give up his association with the Congress. It remains to be seen how Muraleedharan resolves the dilemma.

The lone MP elected on the Kerala Congress (Joseph) ticket has been under pressure to vote for the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha or at least abstain from voting. Since the KC (J) is a constituent of the LDF and has representation in the State Cabinet, it cannot be a party to any such arrangement. –Gulf Today, Sharjah, July21, 2008.

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