NDA’s delay in announcing candidates for 4 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala raises eyebrows

The NDA is yet to announce its candidates in Wayanad, Alathur, Ernakulam, and Kollam.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Mar 18, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedMar 18, 2024 | 2:22 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an election rally in Pathanamthitta. (X)

The stage is set. The ruling LDF and Opposition UDF have announced their list of players — a mix of veterans and new faces — for all 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in Kerala, ahead of the Election Commission of India, on Saturday, 16 March, announcing the schedule of the largest democratic festival in the world

The BJP-led NDA, however, seemed to be caught in a quandary. It is yet to announce its candidates for four seats, including the high-profile Wayanad, where former AICC president Rahul Gandhi will be seeking a second consecutive win.

Besides Wayanad, Alathur, Ernakulam, and Kollam, too, are awaiting the NDA candidates.

The announcement of the poll schedule has added to the frenzy in Kerala, which will vote on 26 April, and then wait 39 days for the results.

Lok Sabha election: Polling in 7 phases between 19 April and 1 June; counting on 4 June

Strategic move?

The BJP’s indecision on four candidates has injected a dose of unpredictability into an already heated electoral landscape. With each passing day, speculations and rumours are rife about potential candidates.

The BJP has announced 12 candidates, including two Union ministers, Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Thiruvananthapuram) and V Muraleedharan (Attingal). The BDJS, an NDA constituent, has announced four candidates.

The saffron party’s hesitation in announcing candidates for the remaining seats could be a well-calculated move. However, some expressed fear that the delay might dent its momentum in the electoral race.

Speculation is also rife that it might field a high-profile candidate against Gandhi in Wayanad.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of India (Athawale) has nominated Nuzarath Jahan as its candidate in Wayanad. The party is not a part of the NDA in Kerala.

The NDA’s poll plank is that the LDF and UDF had done nothing for Kerala and the electorate should give it an opportunity to develop the state.

UDF Lok Sabha seat-share: Congress to contest from 16 seats, including Wayanad

UDF exudes confidence

The Congress-UDF exuded confidence in a clean sweep and have chalked out its campaign strategies accordingly. The leaders hinted that the Front would fuel generate the anti-incumbency feelings among the electorates against the BJP-led government at the Centre and CPI(M)-led government in the state.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

In the 2019 polls, the UDF won 19 out of 20 seats.

The Congress has fielded 14 of their 15 incumbent MPs, barring TN Prathapan of Thrissur. They also sprang a surprise by shifting K Muraleedharan from Vadakara to Thrissur after his sister Padmaja Venugopal joined the BJP on 7 March.

The IUML, a UDF constituent, fielded its sitting Ponnani MP ET Mohammed Basheer in Malappuram, after shifting Abdussamad Samadani to Ponnani. Samadami was representing Malappuram in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The RSP once again nominated sitting MP NK Premachandran, seeking a hat-trick win, in Kollam. The RSP is part of the UDF in Kerala. Premachandran is pitted against MLA and cine actor Mukesh.

Meanwhile, Kottayam has become the battleground for two Kerala Congress factions. While the LDF fielded sitting MP Thomas Chazhikkadan of the Kerala Congress (Mani), the UDF has former MP Francis George of the Kerala Congress (Joseph) as its candidate.

In the 2019 parliament election, Kerala Congress (Mani) was part of the UDF. Chazhikkadan had then defeated LDF’s VN Vasavan, now a minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet.

The UDF said the electoral bonds issue would be the main weapon against the NDA. It added that it has many issues to raise against the LDF.

According to the Election Commission, the Congress had raised ₹1,422 crore by encashing electoral bonds, while the BJP and Trinamool Congress led the list of recipients with
₹6,061 crore and ₹1,610 crore, respectively.

LDF seat-sharing: CPI(M) vacates Kottayam to accommodate KC(M) in Kerala

LDF dreams of regaining lost glory

The LDF, especially its main constituent CPI(M), has put its dismal performance in the previous election behind. The Front is confident of regaining its lost glory. The LDF was the first to announce all its candidates on 27 February.

The CPI(M) is contesting from 15 seats, CPI from four seats, and Kerala Congress (M), from one.

Among the CPI(M) candidates are a sitting MP, and four MLAs, including a minister. A politburo member, four central committee members, and three district secretaries, too, are in the fray.

The LDF said that it will highlight Congress leaders making a beeline to join the BJP, reminding the voters that the leader they vote for might end up in the saffron party. To drive in its point, the LDF is pointing at Anil K Antony (Pathanamthitta), Baiju Kalasala (Mavelikkara), and C Raghunath (Kannur), former Congress leaders in the NDA’s list of candidates.

The LDF will raise the CAA notification, electoral bond, Hindutva agenda, fiscal federalism, and other issues against the NDA during its campaign.

Dismal representation for women

Despite Parliament passing the Women Reservation Bill, the representation of women candidates is abysmal in the state. The UDF has just one woman candidate, Ramya Haridas in Alathur.

The LDF has fielded three woman candidates, former minister KK Shailaja (Vadakara), Annie Raja (Wayanad), and KJ Shine (Ernakulam). The NDA tops the list with four candidates: Sangeetha Vishwanathan (Ernakulam), Sobha Surendran (Alappuzha), ML Ashwini (Kasaragod) and Niveditha Subramanian (Ponnani).

Also read: NDA Kerala ally BDJS announces LS candidates in Mavelikkara, Chalakudy

IUML wants polling date changed

Meanwhile, the Election Commission’s decision to hold the polling on 26 April — a Friday — has miffed the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Talking to the media, IUML state general secretary PMA Salam said that the party would approach the poll panel with a demand to reschedule the polling date.

“The decision to conduct the poll on a Friday will put voters, polling agents, officials, party workers, and candidates who offer the Friday prayer (namaz) in difficulty,” Salam said.

Samastha Kerala Jem-iyyathul Ulama, an association of eminent Sunni scholars in the state, too, made a similar demand.

In Islam, Friday is observed as Jumu’ah day (day of congregation). On this day, Muslims gather in mosques to offer namaz. According to the 2011 census, Muslims comprise 25.56 percent of the state’s total population.

(Edited by Majnu Babu)