Thiruvananthapuram, March 4: As the Election Commission announced the date for elections to the new 140-member Kerala assembly, the stage is set for what many call a "game changer" polls in the southern state.
Not only the two traditional alliances -- the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) -- which have dominated the political landscape in the southern state since the 1970s, but the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance also will fight it out in the poll arena.
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According to the Election Commission figures, 2.56 crore voters in Kerala are eligible to cast their votes in 21,498 polling booths.
Despite opposition accusations of scams and other wrong-doings, the Oommen Chandy-led UDF government is expecting to create history by retaining power. It would be the first ever time that incumbents retain power in Kerala if this happens.
On the other hand, the Left opposition is equally determined to ensure that history repeats itself - that power in Kerala alternates between the Congress and the Left opposition.
The BJP on the sidelines yet is claiming that "the lotus will bloom this time" in the southern state.
Hindu Ezhava leader Vellapalli Natesan's newly launched Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) joined the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA on March 3.
Should, in the unlikely event, the BJP-led NDA win in Kerala, it would be the first ever time that the saffron party or a Hindutva combine would have come to power in the state that hoisted to office India's first elected communist government on April 5, 1957.
The BJP has as yet no representative in the state assembly.
As things stand now, the Indian Union Muslim League, the second biggest ally of the Congress in the UDF, has announced its candidates list for 20 of the 24 seats it will contest.
The Congress, mired in factional feuds in the past, has selected candidates at the constituency level. The list is now being vetted at the state leadership level, though the final clearance will come from the high command in Delhi.
"Tomorrow, we are meeting to prune the list we have received. It will be sent to the Congress high command, who will make the final selection," V.M. Sudheeran, the president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, told reporters here on Friday.
Meanwhile, the CPI-M too is busy finalising its distribution of poll tickets. It is, however, on the horns of dilemma: Whether 92-year-old political warhorse V.S. Achuthanandan or politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan be made the chief minister, should it return to power.
On the flip side, the LDF will now have to deal with UDF allies who have since switched sides. Seat-sharing could be difficult and existing LDF allies may feel the heat.
"The seat-sharing mechanism will be worked out when LDF leaders meet," said CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
The BJP has already completed one round of discussions and is expected to field all its popular state leaders, including former union minister O. Rajagopal.
However, it would not be until next week when all three formations will finalise their respective candidates. Thereafter, a keen political contest will be witnessed in Kerala.