The ruling Left democratic front led by the CPI-M is on a sticky wicket in Kerala with only four days remaining for the first phase of polling.
Opinion polls conducted by national and local agencies are predicting a clean sweep for the Congress-led United Democratic Front .While two national level surveys gave the UDF 15 out of 20 seats and the Left Democratic Front 5 seats. Local agencies were more liberal in giving seats to the UDF with some even predicting 18 seats for the UDF.
It may be recalled that the LDF had won 18 seats in the last Lok Sabha polls with the NDA winning one seat and the Indian Union Muslim League winning the other one.
A trip through the state gave a feeling to this correspondent that all is not well for the Left Front candidates with the people showing resent even in left strong holds like Kannur and Vadakara, which has literally become red bastions after the delimitation exercises.
In the constituencies hitherto represented by the left front a consolidation which is against the CPI-M combination with the PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani is slowly working out.
In addition to this the CPI-M leaders had taken "pains" to estrange the Christian community and the dominant upper caste Nair community away from the left front. CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has been the main culprit in this exercise with open challenges against the senior Christian clergy and the churches have already read out anti-CPI-M leaflets, which generally have an impact on ordinary voters from the community, including women.
Traditionally, Kerala election results are based on this swing of the middle class independent voters. The CPI-M has also estranged the Nair community with the CPI-M leader Pinarayi Vijayan openly ridiculing the respected leaders of the community in the reservation issue.
The CPI-M state secretariat, which had met the other day, has given only five sure seats to the party, including Kasargod, Kozhikode, Alathur, Palakkad and Attingal. The party gives Kannur, Vadakara and Kollam a winning chance. This shows that the party is demoralised.
However, this election will go down in history as one in which the two main fronts -- the UDF and the LDF -- wooed the Islamist organizations, including the PDP of Abdul Nasser Madani and the radical National Development Front with the Left throwing its weight behind Madani and the UDF leaning on to the NDF.
The NDF is considered to be an Islamic fundamentalist organization in the state and is a suspected organization behind several political murders including the Marad mass murder in which 8 Hindu fishermen were lynched to death on May 3, 2003.
Another major factor is that the LDF was not able to convincingly bring out the combination between the UDF and the NDF while the Congress and the UDF were successful in exposing Left's direct and indirect ties with the PDP of Abdul Nasser Madani.
There could also be some unexpected surprises in this election as the BJP state president P K Krishnadas in Thiruvananthapuram and the NCP state president K Muraleedharan in Wayanad are giving tough fights to the major fronts with the BSP also trying to capitalise maximum number of Dalit votes in the state.