‘Certainly LDF’ – that’s going to be the campaign thrust of the Left Democratic Front in Kerala where Assembly polls are due on April 6.
The ‘Certainly LDF’ follows another slogan ‘Certainly development, certainly health, and certainly welfare.’ The first slogan was formally released by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with the Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac and CPI-M state secretary A Vijayaraghavan. “The LDF is in itself an assurance to the people. What we mean is the LDF will return to power,” said A Vijayaraghavan.
The CPI-M and LDF realised the importance of such slogans in the 2016 election when these went viral. The previous elections’ tagline was ‘LDF will come and everything will be sorted out’. While the critics took it to mean that bureaucrats and politicians were to be blamed for every wrong step taken by the LDF, the Left social media handlers presented it as a celebration to mean that “everything will indeed be sorted out” given achievements of the government.
This election is crucial for the CPI-M for many reasons. Kerala is now the only place where the party enjoys power and hence a ‘do or die’ situation for it. The emerging imperatives could call for the “big brother” CPI-M to make compromises. For instance, the Kerala Congress (M), a regional party that represents the Christian minority in central Kerala, would now demand not less than 15 seats. The “big brother” would have to concede at least a dozen. Besides, the total number of seats shared among other parties in the Front, including CPI-M, will be reduced.
Unlike the previous elections in which “negative votes” or anti-incumbency votes determined the result, the CPI-M as well as the LDF is now trying to garner the “positive votes” on the basis of government’s performance report.
Renovation and modernisation of schools, hospitals and medical colleges, upgrading PHCs to family health centres, construction of roads and bridges and widening the coverage of welfare pensions (total recipients are around 68 lakh people) are some of the achievements that the LDF would like to highlight. Development schemes under the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) have also brought tangible results.
The government has been appreciated for its crisis management skills during the Nipah outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic. The handling of two consecutive floods has also earned praise. The government has come out with progress reports every year, putting the election manifesto as the base document. These reports are made available for public scrutiny.
The government has been trying its best to earn every single vote. For example, the cabinet has decided to withdraw cases registered in the anti-CAA and Sabarimala protests. Talks have been held with strikers demanding appointments for all in the existing rank lists of the Public Service Commission. Regularisation of temporary workers with 10 years of experience, the enhancement of welfare pensions and honorarium to ASHAs and relief packages for the IT industry are some of the recent decisions taken by the ruling LDF government.
There are several downsides as well: No government in the recent history of Kerala has faced as many crises and challenges as the present LDF government. In addition to natural disasters and epidemics, the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala caught the government off-guard. The massive protests organised by BJP and RSS against women in menstruating age entering Sabarimala put the government in the dock.
The government has faced a sea of allegations. The controversy over breach of privacy data during the COVID pandemic in the wake of a contract with Sprinklr, a US-based company, was something where the government lost its voice and later cancelled the contract. The allegation of corruption against CM’s office with regard to gold smuggling has cast a shadow over the image of the government.
“The government has succeeded in reaching out to people by its welfare approach. The distribution of kits during lockdown and a wide coverage of welfare pensions are very much visible to the people, especially women,” says Sonia George, convenor of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), the largest independent women’s trade union in India. However, Sonia does not think that all is well with the government.
“There are many vital areas that have remained untouched by the government. One is poor employment and participation of women” says Sonia. “The issue got a mention only in the last budget. The government chose short-term policies focused on only immediate relief rather than a long-term and sustainable approach,” says Sonia.