War of words heats up Kerala politics

Thiruvananthapuram, March 31 (IANS): With just 10 days to go for Lok Sabha poll in Kerala, the war of words between the LDF and the UDF has heated up the election scene in the state.

Leading the verbal charge is the Left Democratic Front (LDF), which appears to have targeted Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

The Left parties have launched a massive attack against him, thanks to a scathing observation in a judgment delivered by the Kerala High Court last week.

While ordering a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe -- requested by the state government -- against the alleged involvement of Chandy's former gun-man Salim Raj in a controversial land deal, the court reprimanded the chief minister for appointing shady characters to his office.

The judgment has given top LDF leaders an opportunity to go hammer and tongs against Chandy. They have demanded his resignation as no chief minister in the recent past has been censured by a court to such a degree.

"If he has any shame left, he should quit. But since he does not have that, he will stick on," said his former cabinet colleague K.R. Gowri of the Janathipathiya Samrakshana Samithy (JSS), who crossed over to the LDF last month.

The JSS, however, has no representation in the assembly.

Chandy, who has been consulting top legal brains, is expected to appeal against the judgment sometime later in the day.

Batting for Chandy is his friend of more than five decades, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who has categorically said there is no need for the Kerala chief minister to resign.

Antony also attacked the defensive decision of the CPI-M to field five non-party candidates.

"The CPI-M is afraid to field their own candidates, therefore they have opted for independents. You just wait and see, we (UDF) will get at least one seat more than what we got in 2009," said Antony, whose campaigns are drawing huge crowds.

The arrival of Antony, who has begun his week-long state-wide rallies, has energised the United Democratic Front (UDF) and its cadres.

Rubbing salt into the CPI-M, Antony also pointed out that in the best interests of protecting national integrity, the CPI-M should support the Congress after the poll.

The CPI-M has, however, replied to the barb, with one of their Politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai claiming Antony's party would disintegrate after the poll result.

This week is going to see high-voltage campaigning with the political outfits planning to bring in star campaigners, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi besides the top brass of the Communist parties.

Kerala goes to polls on April 10 to elect 20 Lok Sabha members. The Congress in Kerala is expected to buck the national trend by putting in a better performance than last time.

In the 2009 election, the UDF wrested 16 seats while the LDF won just four seats.



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