With the two Communist parties engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, the Left Democratic Front, which rules Kerala, is caught in the worst crisis in the three decades of its existence.
Realising that the front's future is at stake, the national leadership of the two parties have urged the state units to resolve the differences amicably. Mediators are working on a face-saving formula.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which heads the front, and the Communist Party of India (CPI), the second largest partner, fell out on the issue of a common candidate to challenge the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in the Ponnani constituency, which it has always won.
Trouble began when the CPI-M, at the instance of People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Abdul Naser Mahdani, who has offered support to the LDF, sponsored Husain Randathani, a college principal, as an Independent candidate for Ponnani.
The CPI refused to endorse Randathani as giving Ponnani to him will reduce its share of seats from four to three.
It proposed AP Kunhamu, who was associated with a pro-CPI bank employees union, as the LDF-backed independent.
CPI-M blackballed Kunhamu, saying he is close to the National Development Front NDF), which it considers an extremist outfit.
However, on Sunday, Randathani, apparently at the CPI-M's behest, made an attempt to win the CPI's favour.
Matters came to a head when CPI state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan, after heated exchanges with CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, walked out of the LDF meeting which was to have finalised division of seats.
At a press conference, he announced that the CPI would put up candidates for all CPI-M seats if the LDF did not accept its candidate in Ponnani.
He also said the party would stay away from the LDF's district conventions scheduled for the weekend.
Pinarayi Vijayan sought to mollify the CPI by offering to protect its share of four seats. However, he did not withdraw his party's support to Randathani, who has already started campaigning.
Vijayan reminded Bhargavan that when the CPI fought alone last time most of its candidates had forfeited their security deposits.
When the LDF began talks on seat division, the Revolutionary Socialist Party demanded that the Kollam seat, which the CPI-M had taken from it in the last elections, be returned.
It threatened to pull out NK Premachandran, its nominee in the state cabinet, if its claim was overlooked.
The CPI-M ignored the threat. The RSP decided to swallow its words and remain in the government.
The CPI-M asked the Janata Dal (S) to return the Kozhikode seat, which its leader, MP Veerendrakumar, had successfully contested in the last two elections, and take Wayanad instead.
Since the LDF does not seem to have a winning chance in Waynad, the JD (S) turned down the suggestion.
It said it was ready to give up its cabinet berth and all other posts held by it as a member of the alliance if it was denied the Kozhikode seat.
Taking into account the CPI's boycott threat, the CPI-M postponed the district-level conventions of the LDF.
However, it activated its cadres in all constituencies other than those of the CPI. In Ponnani, the party cadres are active in Randathani's campaign.
As the week drew to a close, the CPI district committees were busy drawing up lists of candidates for all the seats. The party's ministers were said to be clearing pending files in preparation for vacation of office.
The CPI-M considers these moves part of the CPI's pressure tactics. It expects the CPI to remain in the LDF as there is no viable alternative before it. Under the seat sharing arrangement worked out by the UDF, the Congress is to contest 17 seats, the Muslim League two and the Kerala Congress (Mani) one.
The Congress has not finalised its candidates so far. With a large number of aspirants in the field, the task is by no means easy.
Some observers believe the party is wilfully delaying the selection process, going on in New Delhi, to know the outcome of the rift in the LDF.
The Congress has already enlisted the support of AK Abdullakutty, Kannur MP, whom the CPI-M recently expelled.
It is also reportedly considering giving him the party ticket to contest from Kannur or Kasargode.
Two factors threaten to scuttle middlemen's efforts to find an amicable solution to the problems in the LDF. One is Husain Randathani's refusal to withdraw from the contest and the CPI-M's reluctance to forsake him. The other is Mahdani's threat to put up candidates in all constituencies where the CPI contests if it does not accept Randathani in Ponnani.