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JD(U) may ditch Congress and join LDF in Kerala

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-07-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Bengaluru: Senior leaders of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), in Kerala have hinted that they may leave the opposition front led by the Congress party to join the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).

The leaders think the Congress is much weakened with internal bickering and the communists are in a more reliable position to battle the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.

If JD(U) departs, it would be the second big party to leave the Congress-led opposition front United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala after losing assembly elections in May 2016. A month after the elections, the third biggest alliance partner of UDF, Kerala Congress (Mani), had exited the front.

The leaders of both sides have had informal talks, Charupara Ravi, vice-president of JD(U), said in an interview with regional news channel Manorama News on Thursday. He added that JD(U) is dissatisfied within the UDF, and is being silent on many matters only to maintain peace within the coalition.

Another leader from JD(U) confirmed the talks to Mint. He said that such moves have not been discussed in any official forum, but the party is concerned about the weak position of Congress in Kerala. The polarization caused by the BJP emerging as a third front is also weakening the Congress but strengthening the communists, he said, requesting not to be named.

The JD(U) has not won any assembly seats in Kerala but has a lone Rajya Sabha MP, its state president and media doyen, Veerendra Kumar. Its leaders were associated with LDF, under former prime minister Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), until Kumar broke away from the coalition when he was not given a particular seat in 2009 Lok Sabha election. He formed Socialist Janata (Democratic) which soon merged with the JD(U) and joined the UDF, while a rival faction stayed with LDF.

The move was accompanied by a war of words between Kumar and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was then state secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, which leads LDF. In an interview, Kumar had said Vijayan would “liquidate the CPM”, which evoked strong reactions from CPM leaders.

However, after the communists returned to power last year, speculation has been running thick in the state about the two parties getting closer. Vijayan, attending the release of a new book penned by Kumar in January, was seen as a sign of the two leaders burying the hatchet.

Recently, top leaders of the LDF had also thrown open invitations to JD(U) to join the front quite publicly. While LDF convener Vaikom Viswan said it is up to JD(U) to take a stand on the matter, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, state secretary of CPM, said in an interview last week that they are open to accommodate JD(U).

Meanwhile, Congress leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy told reporters that the concerns of JD(U) will be discussed within the front.

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