Counting begins tomarrow
Thiruvananthapuram, May 10 : Will Kerala voters keep it intact their tradition of voting for a change? This will be the question in everyone's mind when counting of votes for the three-phased Assembly elections in Kerala begins tomorrow morning.
Chief Electoral Officer Nalini Netto said all the preparations for the counting of votes were complete and a clear picture about the winners would be known by 1100 hrs.
The Marxist-led Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) is in a spirited mood with every pre-poll and exist polls predicting a victory for them even in the absence of any marked anti-incumbency factor. However, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is hoping to retain power by a slender margin.
Previous elections in 2001 saw the UDF wresting power from the Marxist-led combine by a huge majority of 100 in the 140-member house. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then as the Congress lost almost all the bypolls, elections to Parliament and local bodies, Mr Oommen Chandy took over as Chief Minister after Mr A K Antony's resignation and suffered a split with veteran leader K Karunakaran forming a new party.
In this election, it was the 'development mantra' that was the poll plank of the UDF and on the other hand the LDF projected the so-called 'anti-people' policies of the Oommen Chandy Government to convince the voters.
While the UDF has projected Mr Chandy as the Chief Ministerial candidate, the LDF faced the voters with a lot of confusion on the leadership issue. Though CPI(M) Politburo member and Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan stole the limelight during the campaign, it is uncertain that whether he will be given a chance to head the government if the LDF got a majority.
Initially, Mr Achuthanandan was denied a ticket by the party which subsequently reversed the decision following stiff protest within the CPI(M). It was speculated that the faction identified with CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan was strongly opposed to the candidature of Mr Achuthanandan.
In the electoral arena, it was a battle of crutches in the Chief Minister's constituency in Puthupalli. The CPI(M) rival of Mr Oommen Chandy who suffered a hip fracture during a fall in Davos was SFI state president Sindhu Joy, injured in a police action during a students agitation. Mr Achuthanandan is seeking re-election from Malampuzha where his Congress rival is Mr Satheesan Pacheni.
Prominent among the other candidates on the fray are LDF convener Paloli Mohammed Kutty(Ponnani), Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) president K Muraleedharan(Koduvally), Indian Union Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty(Kuttippuram), former Union Minister and BJP leader O Rajagopal(Palakkad), CPI(M) Central Committee members M A Baby (Kundara) and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (Thalasseri), CPI(M) State Secretariat member T M Thomas Issac (Mararikulam) and former Assembly Speaker M Vijayakumar (Thiruvananthapuram - North).
The CPI(M) heads the LDF in which the Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Janata Dal(S), Kerala Congress (Joseph), Nationalist Congress Party, Congress(S) and Kerala Congress (Secular) are the other parnters.
In the UDF folds, apart from the Congress, there are Indian Union Muslim League, Kerala Congress (M), Janathipathya Samrakshana Samiti, Communist Marxist Party, RSP(B) and Kerala Congress (B).
DIC(K) of veteran leader K Karunakaran is having a seat-sharing pact with the UDF.
In Kerala, the polls were held in three phases -- April 22, 29 and May three. There were 21.48 million voters, including 11.14 million women, in the 14 districts.