Tough job awaits Congress in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: With UDF securing power with a thin majority of 72 seats in the 140-member Assembly in Kerala, tough administrative and organisational tasks are awaiting Congress as the lead partner in the bipolar scenario.

Running the combine within and outside the assembly will be a delicate job for Congress leaders, including Chief Ministerial probable Oommen Chandy who will have to put up with pressures from partners while offering a "stable, pro-people and development-oriented rule" as promised to voters.

The presence of CPI(M)-led LDF as a strong and vigilant opposition will be a compelling factor for the UDF to be doubly cautious in its every move in the coming days.

Though the Congress and its partners have exuded confidence that they would run the government cohesively, political observers here feel that problems might crop up right from the ministry-formation process.

According to observers, Congress`s tally of 38 seats, which stood far short of expectations, could be exploited by partners like the Kerala Congress (Mani faction) to drive a hard bargain during ministry-formation.

The difference of votes between the two coalitions is slightly above 1.50 lakh. By preliminary estimates, the UDF secured 45.61 per cent and LDF 44.9 per cent of the polled votes. BJP, whose hopes of opening account in the assembly were dashed once again, secured 6.06 per cent, which is two per cent higher than its vote share in the 2006 polls.

For the Congress, keeping the right class, caste and religious composition while choosing its members could be a difficult task as two of its key allies–Kerala Congress (M) and Indian Union Muslim League-are minority-dominated parties.

Besides, smaller parties like Kerala Congress (Jacob), Kerala Congress (B) and RSP (B), which have one one seat each, will also have to be rewarded with ministerial berth as the support of every single MLA is crucial for the survival of the ministry.

Accepting the defeat, the CPI(M) has made it clear that the LDF would sit in opposition and would not encourage any party to cross from the rival side.

But, going by the state`s political history, this would not mean that the opposition would allow the UDF to run the government smoothly for long with such a wafer-thin majority.

As the opposition, most probably under the leadership of outgoing Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, the LDF is certain to closely watch the government without letting go of any chance to "oppose and expose" the rival