US embassy cable - 06CHENNAI848

KERALA ELECTIONS: EXIT POLLS POINT TO A LEFT FRONT VICTORY

Identifier: 06CHENNAI848
Wikileaks: View 06CHENNAI848 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Chennai
Created: 2006-05-02 10:22:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PINR IN
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO0486
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCG #0848/01 1221022
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021022Z MAY 06
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8147
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1626
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 4749
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0496
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1200
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHENNAI 000848 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, IN 
SUBJECT: KERALA ELECTIONS: EXIT POLLS POINT TO A LEFT 
FRONT VICTORY 
 
REF: CHENNAI 0567 
 
1. SUMMARY: (SBU) Peaceful polling and unanimous exit 
poll results predicting a Left Front victory marked 
the first and second phases of Kerala elections, which 
cover 90% of the state.  The remaining constituencies 
will vote on May 3.  Despite the Congress leaders' 
media bravado, they privately admit pessimism over the 
outcome.  As a key element of their campaign, the 
leftists successfully whipped up Islamic passion 
against Congress' perceived support for U.S. policies 
in Iran and Iraq.  The communal campaign raises 
concerns about future harmony in a state where Muslims 
constitute 24 percent of the population. END SUMMARY. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
PEACEFUL POLLING; EXIT POLLS FAVOR LEFTISTS 
------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Amid wide expectations of a Left Democratic 
Front victory, 125 of Kerala's 140 assembly 
constituencies completed peaceful polling on April 23 
and 29.  The third and final phase of polling will 
take place in the remaining 15 northern constituencies 
on May 3.  Voter participation percentage in the first 
phase was 69.78 and in the second phase, 73.49.  The 
final results that will be announced on May 11 will 
declare who will rule India's highest literacy state 
for the next five years.  But based on exit polls and 
the state's trend of anti-incumbent voting, many 
Keralites are already convinced that the Left 
Democratic Front (LDF), led by the Communist Party of 
India (Marxist) (CPI-M), is set to regain power after 
a gap of five years. 
 
3. (SBU) According to The Hindu newspaper of April 30, 
all three exit polls conducted in the state point to 
an easy victory for the LDF.  While the India Vision- 
AC Nielsen poll gave the LDF 87 of the 125 seats, the 
Asianet exit poll put the figure at 76 to 89, and 
Jeevan TV, at 95 to 98.  With the remaining 15 
constituencies that go to the polls on May 3 being 
traditional strongholds of the LDF, the exit polls 
suggest a huge final majority for them in the 140- 
member assembly. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
CHANDY HOPES AGAINST HOPE; OTHERS LESS OPTIMISTIC 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4. (SBU) Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told Post after 
the first phase of polling that the Congress-led UDF 
remains hopeful, claiming that they would win a 
majority of seats in the first phase of the polling, 
and do much better in the second phase.  He, however, 
did not sound convincing and was dismissive with the 
press when they asked about the exit polls.  Congress 
leader, Chairman of Kerala Tourism Corporation, and 
former Minister Pandalam Sudhakaran (protect), was 
more forthright: "We are in a terribly poor 
condition," he told Post.  "We might make 40-50 seats 
at best."  Sudhakaran believes that last minute fence 
mending with the estranged Congress leader 
Karunakaran's faction did not create any positive 
impact.  "In retrospect, it might have been better if 
we had just followed Oommen Chandy's line and kept 
Karunakaran at bay," he said.  Minister K.C. Venugopal 
(protect), a young Congress leader, was more 
optimistic: he believes the Congress might gather 60- 
65 seats, still short of majority. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
LEFTISTS WHIPPED UP ANTI-U.S. ISLAMIC PASSION 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
5. (SBU) The CPI(M) spent much campaign energy turning 
Muslim communal sentiment against the Congress party 
and its long-time ally, the Indian Union Muslim 
League.  The GOI's perceived weakness in "resisting 
the U.S.' imperialist actions against Iraq and Iran" 
was one of the major themes of the state election 
campaign.  M.M. Hassan (protect), a Congress leader 
belonging to the Muslim community, told Post that the 
issue had become a major poll theme in Kerala, which 
has 24 percent Muslim population.  According to 
Hassan, the Iran-Iraq issue affected the Congress 
almost as badly as the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, 
 
CHENNAI 00000848  002 OF 002 
 
 
"maybe about 75 percent the impact of Babri Masjid," 
he said.  He pointed out that Muslim organizations 
such as the Jama-Ate-Islami and the Peoples' 
Democratic Party (PDP), which is led by Abdul Nasser 
Madani, an Islamic radical now in jail for his alleged 
role in the terrorist bombings in Tamil Nadu in 1998, 
openly campaigned for the LDF.  In order to capture 
the Islamic hardliners' votes, the LDF also maintained 
open ties with the Indian National League, a faction 
that broke from the Indian Union Muslim League to 
pursue more vigorous communal politics. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
HINDU REACTION MUTED; CONGRESS IN NO POSITION TO TAP 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
6. (SBU) Congress leader Hassan (protect) told Post 
that there has been no visible Hindu consolidation 
against the aggressive pro-Muslim campaign of the LDF. 
"The government is widely seen as being run by a 
Christian (Chief Minister Oommen Chandy), and 
supported by the Muslim League," he said.  According 
to Hassan, this perception has put a damper on any 
groundswell of Hindu support.  LDF propaganda branded 
the Indian Union Muslim League, which has partnered 
with the Congress in Kerala since the 1980s, as 
unresponsive to Muslim concerns, suggesting that they 
had ignored the Muslim community's interests while 
looking after their own personal agendas.  Gowridasan 
Nair (protect), Principal Correspondent of The Hindu, 
went further and alleged that the Muslim League 
leaders had invited public wrath by their support for 
criminals such as those involved in the massacre of 
eight Hindus in Marad in May 2003.  He believes that 
CPI(M) leader Achuthanandan has emerged as the hero of 
the 2006 campaign.  Octogenarian Achuthanandan, 
reintroduced into the campaign by the party in 
response to popular demand, is one of the principal 
contenders for the Chief Minister's post, if the LDF 
gains a majority as expected. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
INDIAN UNION MUSLIM LEAGUE LOSING SUPPORT 
----------------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) The Indian Union Muslim League, traditional 
partner of the Congress, remains the largest Muslim 
political party in Kerala.  But it has been slowly 
losing support among Muslims, especially Muslim youth. 
Many young Muslims have been attracted by either ultra- 
conservative Muslim religious groups or one of the 
many small Muslim parties that have broken away from 
the Union League.  Other Muslims have joined the CPI- 
M, who with its strident criticism of India's growing 
connections with the U.S., they feel better represents 
their views. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
GROWING COMMUNAL DIVIDE A CAUSE OF CONCERN 
------------------------------------------ 
 
8. (SBU) COMMENT: It seems very unlikely that the 
Congress-led UDF will retain power in the face of 
Kerala's anti-incumbency history.  Congress leaders' 
faint hopes seem to rest on the intra-party feud that 
prevails in the CPI(M) and which came to the fore when 
Achuthanandan was originally denied a seat to contest. 
Had the CPI(M) persisted with that decision, it could 
have resulted in major upheavals.  But once the party 
yielded and gave Achuthanandan a seat to contest, it 
seemed to give the old party-line communist a larger 
than life image.  Meanwhile, the communal undertones 
of the 2006 election campaign raise concerns about the 
future of communal harmony in the state with its high 
concentrations of Islamic population in the northern 
districts.  END COMMENT. 
 
HOPPER 

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