IF by winning 16 of the 20 seats in 2009 Lok Sabha polls and making substantial gains in the just concluded local body polls, the Congress thinks it can sweep Assembly polls in May 2011, it is living in a fool’s paradise.
Close on the heels of Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikutty being involved in charges of bribing judges, police officials and sexually-assaulted minor girls in the infamous Kozhikode Ice-Cream Parlour sex-scandal case, have come an avalanche of problems for the Congress-led UDF, dashing its hopes for a spectacular victory. What was seen as a surety on January 1, is becoming a mirage. Within a short span of 40-50 days, the table has been turned with Congress-led UDF on the hopelessly defensive mode.
On February 9, the Supreme Court convicted Kerala Congress (B) leader and former Power Minister R Balakrishna Pillai to one year’s regorous imprisonment for causing loss of rupees two crore to the state of Kerala in the three decade old corruption case in the building of tunnel in Edamalayar Hydel Project. The case was vehemently followed up by VS Atchudanandan for the past 30 years. VS went to Supreme Court when the Congress Government of Kerala didn’t file appeal, when Kerala High Court let-off Pillai, a decade back. Pillai, an important Pillar of the UDF and link between UDF and Nair dominated NSS, is now in Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram.
In order to placate the NSS, KC Venugopal was made Union Minister of State for Power. But a dissatisfied NSS has shut its door on Congress. It wants reservation for economically backward Nairs (Forward Community) and scrapping of central laws which forbid its educational institutions from recruiting staff, directly. The NSS is also demanding Rashtrapati’s pardon for Balakrishna Pillai.
The Palmolein Import Slick which is engulfing Central Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas is also proving a ‘Betal’ in Congresses neck. The late K Karunakaran and the Minister TH Musthafa are also involved in the vigilance case in the import of 15,000 tons of Palmolein from Singapore. Now TH Musthafa has submitted to the Judge that Oommen Chandy, then Finance Minister, was also in the know of the deal and hence leaving him out of the list of accused was wrong. This has created a storm in the Congress, as Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy is being projected as Chief Minister by UDF. Quick to react, Chief Minister VS and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan have vowed to revive the case and strongly pursue it. VS has sarcastically implied in Assembly that the case will have a new accused and mischievously gestured at Oommen Chandy!
At a public reception to R Balakrishna Pillai in his constituency, Kottarakara, before his jailing, Kannur MP and firebrand Congress leader K Sudhakaran stunned the storm-hit Congress by declaring that he was a direct eyewitness to Rs 36 lakh being given to Supreme Court judges in Kerala House, Delhi for quashing a closure on 21 liquor bars by Kerala High Court, two decades back. Close on the heels of corruption involving KG Balakrishnan and Justices in the Ice-cream sex scandal, this was another blow on the judiciary. Troubled Oommen Chandy and PCC president Ramesh Chennithala disassociated with Sudhakaran’s views. Veerappa Moily followed suit. Supreme Court advocates have filed criminal contempt of case against him for humiliating judiciary. Not to be let back, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has also ordered police probe against their bitterest enemy after RSS in Kannur K Sudhakaran!
To add to Congress woes, came a statement from liquor bar owner Jose Illikal that he gave Rs10 lakh each to now central Minister Vayalar Ravi, K Karunakaran’s daughter and Congress leader Padmaja and then liquor Minister Reghuchandrabal for getting the bar licence.
The re-entry of Karunakaran’s son K Muraleedharan into the Congress despite stiff opposition from Ramesh-Oommen gang is seen as a AK Antony-Vayalar Ravi – VM Sudeeran strategy to have more voice in the party in Kerala. The outspoken Muraleedharan, who has mass support and immense money-power, is going to give sleepless nights to Ramesh and Oommen.
The continuing disclosures of Rauf that PK Kunhalikutty was blackmailing the late Muslim League Supremo Panakkad Syed Ali Shihab Thangal and that Kunhalikutty paid lakhs to a sexually-assaulted Christian girl of Kothamangalam in the Potta Christian Centre, under the mediation of Father Panakkal, has caused immense discomfiture in Muslim and Christian circles, UDF’s main vote-bank. The Christian Centre is already under cloud for sex-scandals and mysterious disappearances of women.
Veteran leader KR Gouri, one of the early commie birds, who was chucked out of CPM and is now in UDF, is sulking owing to defeat of her partymen in local body polls due to cross-voting by Congress and is planning to go back to CPM, giving sleepless nights for Congress in Alappuzha district.
Kerala Congress leader KM Mani who has emerged stronger after PJ Joseph’s Kerala Congress, had merged with him, is demanding more slice of the UDF cake. He is demanding Central Ministership for his son and Kottayam MP Jose K Mani and 25-30 seats in the Christian heartlands of Kottayam-Idukki-Pathanamthitta and parts of Alapuzha i.e. Central Travancore. He also wants Deputy Chief Ministership for himself. There was strong resentment in the Congress in the merging of the sex-scandal involved PJ Joseph in Mani’s Kerala Congress. Muslim League is also upset at losing number two position to KM Mani. Clashes broke out between Youth Congress and Mani’s men at Thodupuzha when Mani announced in Delhi that PJ Joseph will be the candidate in Thodupuzha. Mani warned the Congress of retaliatory attacks if Youth Congress is not reigned.
The CPM which never hoped of victory in May 2011, is getting smell of the cake. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a Pinarayi chela, has now switched to VS ’s side owing to VS getting bigger support, due to his fight against corruption, sex scandals and inking the Smart City IT project which hopes for 22,000 employment opportunities. Also bungling by Centre in not including VS Atchudanandan’s name in the inaugural plaque of the International Cargo Container Terminal at Kochi and International Airport’s new Terminal at Thiruvananthapuram, despite valuable contributions by VS’s regime has created a sympathy wave for VS who is strongly batting for a second tenure.
In a state where vote difference between two fronts is hardly 2-3 lakhs and BJP getting 8-10 lakh voters, the result will be certainly nail-biting and photo finish.