Development as a springboard to fight elections in Kerala

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Infrastructure build-up in sectors having a bearing on the lives of ordinary people has a definite place in poll narrative

As the campaign for the Lok Sabha election started in the State in right earnest last week, a report in newspapers urging people in the southern districts to be vigilant as the power line linking the Kudankulam nuclear power plant to Kochi was being charged might not have gained much attention. The much-awaited Edamon-Kochi 400-kV transmission corridor, crucial for hauling Kerala’s share of power from Kudankulam, is all set for commissioning. Though the Tirunelveli-Edamon stretch was completed in 2010, the Edamon-Kochi stretch, so crucial for the State’s power security, has been delayed for one reason or the other.

Not many on the campaign front are heard mentioning about the decisive intervention of the State government that fast-tracked the project. Development, apparently, is not meaty enough for campaigners unless there is a seamy side to it. And when development issues and infrastructure initiatives finally bask in the poll limelight, that raises questions.

“Although poverty eradication, Make in India, corruption, demonetisation, cross-border terrorism, and national security will dominate the campaign rhetoric, the performance of the State government will also be judged by the electorate,” says activist and former president of the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad R.V.G. Menon.

Though the model code of conduct bars the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government from showcasing its initiatives, campaign managers of the front are not losing the opportunity. The achievements in infrastructure build-up are in sectors having a bearing on the lives of ordinary people, and the LDF leadership seeks to juxtapose them to the pro-big business development strategy of the Centre.

“Upgrade of infrastructure in government schools and setting up of modern health-care facilities are there for all to see. Restoring public confidence in government hospitals has benefited 40% of the population. And, how can you ignore migration of around 2.5 lakh students to public schools over three years,” claims a State Planning Board member.

But the United Democratic Front seeks to differ. The Opposition front is to come up with a dossier on the development projects initiated under its governments in the past. “We will expose the claims of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and LDF governments on the development front,” says Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Thampanoor Ravi.

Development of the rail network, the Vizhinjam deepwater seaport, and privatisation of the Thiruvananthapuram airport find mention in the campaign of both fronts as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party owing to the involvement of the Central government in these projects, both as facilitators and promoters.

“Infrastructure and development initiatives of the NDA government will be projected in the campaign. We will also take to the people the negative attitude of the State government towards Centrally funded schemes such as health insurance,” says BJP spokesman M.S. Kumar.

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