Defence minister launches final offensive

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Apr 11 2011, 06:52am hrs
Less than 5% of the total votes polled usually make the difference between the winner and the loser in Kerala. Also last minute freebies can help change the Kerala voters mind. AK Antony, Union defence minister and senior member of Congress Working Committee (CWC), who has also been chief minister of the state across three different periods, has covered 12 districts in the last six days. Antony knows that the last minute political drive can be the difference between power and frustration.

The politically neutral voter, who decides the swing in every Assembly election in Kerala, is a tough cookie. Governance standards can be a big factor for such voters, and Antony thinks this can prove to be the Achilles Heel of the VS Achuthanandan government during this election. I can already see this happening after speaking to voters across the state in the last one week, AK Antony told FE in an exclusive interaction.

Last month, poll pundits had seen a trend favouring the LDF government, even discounting the anti-incumbency factor. However, in the last leg of the campaign, would Antony be optimistic enough to predict a 100-140 majority for the Congress-led UDF, as in 2001-Election Wouldnt 75-80 seats be too unstable No landslide victory, perhaps, says Antony, gesticulating in the negative at the possibility of securing 100 seats. But, Id definitely vouch for a comfortable majority for UDF.

Those familiar with Antonys four-decade spanning career are astonished by the way this suave, mild-mannered Congress man has charged himself to no-holds-barred aggressive campaign speeches, in the course of his tenure as defence minister. Sample the following: Achuthanandan is like an Opposition leader in his own cabinet.

Can we trust him Instead of vengeance against all, a chief minister should have a vision and a definite development agenda. Does he have that he asks.

The UDF government, according to him, intends to make the state an investment destination. Kerala, he says, has phenomenal scope to be countrys higher education hub.

Political rumour mills say Antony is back to his home state to don the kingmakers garb, if there is a race for the chief ministers chair between Oommen Chandy and PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala. A CPM politburo member even pointed out that Ramesh Chennithala is Rahul Gandhis man and thats why the Congress candidate list chockful of Rahuls nominees is actually Ramesh Chennithala list too.

Believe me, I threw myself into the heat and dust of UDF campaign, only because I couldnt sleep comfortably in Delhi, while my party colleagues were sweating it out under the April sun with their campaign tours. But the Kerala saga in my political life is a closed chapter now. I have my responsibilities in Delhi. says the former Kerala CM. Even if there is a chief ministership row There wont be one. There are factions in State Congress unit, I admit. If I dont name wholl be the Congress chief minister now, thats only because of a technicality. Announcing this is the privilege of the elected members. Chandy is a competent and experienced leader. So is Chennithala, Antony signs off, sidestepping the possibility of creating another controversy in a state that loves political drama by the minute.