Murder, scam, green row spice up Kerala polls
The three issues are likely to occupy the mindspace of the voters, even as the process of filing nominations began Saturday.
All the three issues - the T.P.murder case, the solar scam and the contentious Kasturirangan report - are expected to be highlighted all over the media and in the thousands of street corner meetings during the campaign phase in the southern state that sends 20 parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha.
And with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy already declaring that the elections will be a referendum of his government, the lines have already been drawn. For the next three and a half weeks, it's expected to be a fight to the finish between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF).
For the UDF, which won 16 of the 20 seats in the last general elections, the murder of a rebel Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) heavyweight leader T.P. Chandrasekharan in Kozhikode district in 2012 by Left party activists is tipped to be its "killer punch" for the poll campaign.
A hugely popular leader from northwest Kerala, Chandrasekharan took on his former party from which he was ousted in 2008, which had forced CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan to publicly brand him a "renegade".
A trial which followed the murder resulted in the sentencing of 11 people, including three CPI-M district level leaders, to life imprisonment.
"Yes, the murder politics of the CPI-M leader will certainly be one of our main campaign issues. The court in its verdict has clearly said that the motive of the crime was political and not personal," said state Congress chief campaign manager M.M.Hassan.
But, politically, the Congress is expected to be on the backfoot over the infamous solar scam, in which three of Chandy's staffers were linked to key accused Saritha Nair, who along with her live-in partner, is accused of cheating many investors after promising to supply them solar panels.
The opposition went hammer and tongs in this case and held numerous protests demanding that Chandy order a judicial probe and quit office.
According to political observers, this Chandy-linked scam is one of the key issues for the Left and parody songs are being readied, including about Nair's links to Chandy's office.
The opposition is also expected to rake up the Kasturirangan report, whose revelations have rocked the hilly districts of Idukki and Wayanad since November last year.
The report that was cleared by the union environment and the forests ministry came under heavy attack. Adding to the row, vested interests suggested that "unfriendly" recommendations made in the report, if implemented, would make life miserable in 123 villages in these districts.
Under duress, the Chandy government raised this issue at the highest level involving both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. This forced the environment ministry to take a re-look at the report, eventually clearing it, early this month.
Last week, the election commission intervened and, after going through the revised order from the union ministry, finally cleared it.
"Who does not know that this is nothing but an eyewash by the state and the centre because this order is just meant to soothe the feelings of the people and the final decision will be made once a new government assumes office," said CPI-M politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, ridiculing the much-hyped revision.
To reap full political capital from the issue, the CPI-M will also support a candidate put up by the High Range Action Council (which was at the forefront of the protests against the Kasturirangan report since November last year) to contest the Idukki Lok Sabha seat.
Keralites across the state will in all likelihood hear more about these issues over the next few weeks as the political tempo rises all the way to D-Day, with both political fronts putting their side of the story.
Only the results will eventually reveal, whose story the voters eventually believed.