On the eve of the elections in Kerala, one feature that characterizes all political leaders is overconfidence. It is common practice for politicians down the ages to express optimism about victory even when they know that they are down in the doldrums. But here, the overconfidence makes them say and do things without being aware of the dangers lurking around them.
Kerala has a healthy tradition of bringing the two coalitions to power by turns so that each can spend half their term to undo what its predecessor had done and the other half to make their own mistakes. This disproves the theory that Kerala is a politically polarized state. There is obviously a swing group which remembers the evils of the previous government and votes for a change in the fond hope that the other side may deliver better. Consequently, the progress of the state is stalled.
This time, the incumbent LDF government is confident that it will continue despite a battalion of scandals, corruption charges, allegations of anti-national activities in collusion with a foreign country and mishandling of sensitive issues, which should normally have brought the government down even before it completed its term. The campaign slogan of the coalition is that “return is certain.” Not only that, the latest opinion polls by different agencies and TV channels indicate that continuity is possible. Unsurprisingly, the ruling coalition bristles with overconfidence.
The main opposition coalition, UDF, of which Congress is the leading partner is no less confident, as it believes that it is the only viable alternative for Kerala, even though not a day passes without defiance of the state and central leaderships on the selection of candidates. The release of the list of candidates in the name of the High Command culminated in a tonsure by a spirited lady leader. The coalition is expecting to return to power on the strength of the number of cases raised by it to discredit the ruling coalition.
Muslim League, a component of UDF, has quietly planned things in advance, expanded the number of seats and announced its candidates. Normally, announcements by the supreme head of the party is never challenged by the party, but this time the candidate selection was questioned by some.
The overconfidence of NDA is a true mystery as a wave in its favour is not in evidence. Metroman E Sreedharan has much to be confident about and he naturally expresses that confidence in modest terms. One swallow does not make a summer. He should have brought in some like-minded and capable people into the fray. The reality does not match the aspirations as of now. Hope the Metroman, with his outstanding credentials, will be in the Rashtrapati Bhavan a la Dr APJ Abdul Kalam one day.
The confidence of parties has engendered a phenomenon this time, which can be characterized as “localitis”. The political parties have always been suspicious of “imported” candidates as they have their own hierarchy based on working at the grass roots levels. The recent experience of fortune seekers entering politics at high levels has led to extreme caution. This time the “localitis” became so acute that some good people became victims of this prejudice.
The tragic flaw of overconfidence makes any prediction difficult and pollsters are waiting for the completion of the flow of “prominent” people from one coalition to another even at the last minute, believing that even a week is a long time in politics. The only prediction that can be made at this time is that there will be many surprises when the voting machines deliver the results.
(The writer is a former Ambassador of India, living in Kerala since 2004)