Yesterday the by-elections to three Kerala State Assembly constituencies, Alleppey, Ernakulam and Kannur, were concluded peacefully.
So what is there to write about?
Well, the Kannur segment attracted national attention. There were accusations of tailored voter list and pro-government bias by officials including the District Collector who is the Election Officer as well. The Congress Party petitioned the Election Commission (EC).
After studying reports from the State the EC replaced the Collector. It also decided to send a contingent of Central paramilitary forces to ensure smooth and fair elections. This is a normal practice in the case of suspected problem constituencies.
Many people were surprised, or even shocked, by the way the Marxist Party reacted to the EC’s action. The Chief Minister himself started the diatribe. According to media reports he said that the Central forces would be confined to the barracks and they would not be able to do anything without the permission of the State police.
The Home Minister, the CPI (M) State General Secretary and other leaders of the party took up the refrain. The EC was also blamed for being partial. The Chief Electoral Officer of The State, an IAS officer of the Kerala cadre promptly issued a clarification that the men in uniform would be deployed at the discretion of the EC. Later the EC also came out with a statement that even the State police would be taking orders from the Election Officer. That is the correct legal position.
The Central forces were posted at the polling booths as decided by the Election Officer. There was record polling in Kannur and no untoward incidents. Many felt that the presence of the paramilitary forces contributed to this. The Left leaders have a contrary view. Their interpretation is that the 'attempt' of the Congress to frighten away voters with gun totting soldiers in the polling booths did not succeed! Politicians are not sensitive to loss of face.
It is difficult to believe that the Chief Minister and the others who attacked the EC were unaware of the established procedure. Then why did they make such apparently wrong statements? Did it amount to taking anticipatory bail for a possible defeat? Or, did they expect to draw more votes with a policy of confrontation with the EC?
If the voters really swallowed the confrontation propaganda one can only say that, contrary to the general belief, they are not really very politically savvy.
We have to wait till Tuesday to get the answer.