‘Some major issues discussed till recently no longer hold sway as before’
Sebastian Paul has the rare record of winning the Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency, a Congress bastion, twice as a Left-backed Independent. Known for his social and political acumen and as a keen observer of the media, Dr. Paul speaks on the issues and non-issues in this round of polls.
What are the key poll issues?
It seems no single narrative is applicable to the entire State during this election. While the issues related to Sabarimala may be a point of discussion in some constituencies in southern Kerala, political killings could be debated in the northern parts of the State. In some constituencies, some political formations may raise the issue of Hindu religious practices and faith.
The ongoing clashes between two sections of the Malankara Church in some parts of the State may have a bearing on the voting pattern if these sections, which have decided to vote against the government, stick to their stand. It could have a significant influence in the outcome in a couple of constituencies.
What are the issues that are getting relegated to the margins?
While we discuss the issues that may influence voters in the upcoming election, some of the major issues that plagued the nation and society till recently have become irrelevant or are relegated to the backyard of collective memory.
Demonetisation is no longer discussed with vigour. No one is heard raising the issue in the election any more.
It is to be seen to what extent the Sabarimala issue would surface as a poll issue as BJP leaders, who had earlier seen it as a golden opportunity to seize the power, are speaking in different voices.
The Church Bill, which intended to introduce some legal control measures regarding the management of the properties of the Church, has died out as a hot poll topic. Some sections of the Christian society had raised a hue and cry over the suggestions made by the Law Reforms Commission. It has become obsolete as a poll issue after the Chief Minister issued a clarification on the topic.
On the performance of the Centre.
Like in any other Lok Sabha elections, the performance of the Central government will be debated in general. The government will have to try hard to fight off anti-incumbency as the Opposition will try to make the most of it.
The LDF and the UDF are both highlighting the issues related to governance and the challenges to the constitutional values and institutions. They are also focussing on the challenges the Indian republic may face if the BJP returns to power.
Do you see a consolidation of Latin Catholic votes?
It may be for the first time in nearly 40 years that the presence of Latin Catholics on the list of candidates has been reduced to one. The nearly 20 lakh Latin Catholic population had its due representation in Parliament earlier from the Alappuzha and Ernakulam constituencies. Since 1971, all the political formations had cared to field candidates from these constituencies as a matter of due representation.