Kerala ruling front's attempt to refurbish image
The induction of three ministers in Kerala's Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, scheduled on Monday, is part of a face-lifting exercise aimed at recovering ground lost in the three years it has been in office.
The LDF came to power amid high hopes in 2006. It's performance so far has been poor. Even the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which heads the coalition, has been forced to acknowledge that the government has not been able to rise to the expectations of the people. The LDF's performance in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year was disastrous. Its share of seats came down from 19 to four.
Since local bodies elections are due next year, the CPI-M has decided to act quickly to refurbish the government's image. Of the three ministers, two are experienced politicians while one is a green horse.
PJ Joseph, leader of the Kerala Congress faction known by his name, was in the LDF government when it took office but had to resign in the wake of an allegation of sexual harassment. He returns to the ministry after being cleared by a court. When Joseph stepped down in the wake of the charge, the party nominated TU Kuruvila as its representative in the cabinet. He had to bow following allegations of involvement in a land scam.
Mons Joseph was then inducted into the government with a view to keeping the seat warm for PJ Joseph. A Tamil Nadu court, which heard the case against PJ Joseph, acquitted him.
Since the complainant did not appeal against the verdict, the way was clear for his return to the government.
The CPI-M decided to take the opportunity to bring the Congress (Socialist) leader Ramachandran Kadannappalli and Janata Dal (Gowda) member Jose Thettayil also into the government.
By virtue of his seniority as a politician, Ramachandran Kadannappalli was entitled to become minister when the LDF took office. He missed the opportunity as the CPI-M decided not to give representation to one-man parties. The decision was part of a calculated move to limit the role of small constituents who were weilding undue influence in the front.
The CPI-M's decision to accommodate him in the government now suggests that it realises that it needs the support of the small parties, too, to overcome the situation resulting from the rout in the Lok Sabha elections. Jose Thettayil earned the minister's post by remaining steadfast in his support for the LDF when MP Veerendrakumar, state president of Janata Dal (Secular) locked horns with CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.
After the CPI-M took away his Kozhikode Lok Sabha seat for a candidate of its own, Veerendrakumar and his supporters worked against LDF candidates. The Janata Dal's national leadership disowned them.
They are now expected to join the Congress-led United Democratic Front. For a long time, there was very little change in the composition and relative strength of the LDF and the United Democratic Front (UDF), the main contenders for power at the state level who have been favoured by the electorate by turns in Assembly elections.
To the extent that the Veerendrakumar faction is the larger of the two formations resulting from the breakup of the Janata Dal (S), the LDF appears to be a net loser. This may well be what prompted the CPI-M to be show greater solicitude to the small partners. The ministerial changes are unlikely to lead to any improvement in the performance of the LDF government since the causes of its poor record remain unaddressed.
Although things have been quiet in the CPI-M, since Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan's removal from the politburo, no one believes that the bane of sectarianism is over. As a rule, the LDF has had an edge over the UDF in local bodies elections.
However, the reverses the CPI-M suffered in the recent panchayat (local bodies) byelections suggest that there has been erosion in its support at the grassroots, which is attributable, at least partly, to the disenchantment in the rank and file resulting from the sectarianism.
Against this background, the LDF proposal to provide 50% reservation to women in the panchayat elections can be seen as a masterstroke designed to boost its image among the fair sex.
The CPI-M was the major beneficiary of the statutory 33% reservation for women in the local bodies. By putting up more women candidates, it may be able to improve its overall position by enlarging its support base among women. – Gulf Today, Sharjah, August 17, 2009.