Mega scandals outshone mega projects

Kerala voted true to form and elected the LDF.

The main question in Kerala this time was whether the state would follow the revolving-door pattern of electing the Congress-led UDF and the CPM-led LDF every five years, or whether the NDA’s advent would mark a change. The results proved Kerala remains within its own ideological divide, giving no attention to the blitzkrieg by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his strategists. Most of the BJP’s efforts to influence Kerala’s voters were counter-productive, whether it was the over-exposure of the PM, money power, Hindutva or the Somalia reference. While the BJP may have positioned itself for future by getting a higher percentage of votes, it didn’t alter the political landscape.

The BJP opened its account in the Kerala Assembly after contesting since 1982. But the win of O. Rajagopal, known for his contributions to Kerala during his tenure at the Centre, was a foregone conclusion. Without the paradigm shift, Kerala voted true to form and elected the LDF. The UDF thought it would create history by remaining in power on the strength of mega-projects like Vizhinjam Port, Smart City, Kochi Metro, Kannur airport and others. But the mega-scandals outshone the mega-projects. The LDF strategy to play up corruption, pledging to set things right, worked well. But ironically, all the tainted ministers were not defeated.

Development and secularism are part of the agenda of both the UDF and LDF, but they are divergent in their definitions of both. A consensus on these concepts eludes Kerala due to the ideological divide. The UDF believes in both the public and private sectors, but the LDF emphasises its distance from the private sector. But even the LDF is not averse to cooperation with big business, as it has indicated in the case of mega-projects. The mixed economy should be acceptable to both sides. The divergence is highlighted during polls, but in practice, there will be no great difference in their approach to the economy. Based on the UN development goals, it should not be difficult to reach a consensus on development.

Secularism is basically a slogan in Kerala, as Keralites often vote on the basis of caste. Both fronts have had partnerships with the Muslim League, that positioned itself as a secular party in Kerala. The BJP united the two fronts against its Hindutva agenda, but both of them accused the other of secretly being in league with the BJP. The minorities’ concerns about the Modi government is a factor that influences both fronts. One issue that came into focus this time was the UDF’s liquor policy, that saw the closure of low-cost bars, but didn’t lead to any significant fall in alcohol consumption.

The UDF would like to move to prohibition, but the LDF prefers to attain the same through abstinence. Both policies will have no effect as long as the public remains unaware of the dangers of drinking. Like in the case of Mikhail Gorbachev, the popular sentiment may undermine the promoters of reduction in the onsumption of hard liquor.

In health and education policies, the differences between the two fronts have been highlighted for political reasons. Private investment in health is welcome to both, but the LDF voiced its opposition to private universities and autonomous colleges. The UDF government did not approve private universities, but suggested measures to enliven higher education. These were demonised by interested parties, but their merits would be recognised if the measures were examined dispassionately. West Bengal permitted private universities during the Marxist government.

If the new government studies the blueprint for a new education system without an ideological prism, there could be a consensus on health and education. The acrimony of the campaign, the sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat shouldn’t linger too long, and a common agenda should be formulated even with the ideological divide for the common good.

( Source : Columnist )
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