The CPI (M) that heads the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala must boost its vote share and win the maximum number of seats to retain its status as a national party. Apart from Kerala, it hopes to make some gains in neighbouring Tamil Nadu through a tie-up with the DMK, while possibly none in its erstwhile citadels of West Bengal or Tripura.

Top CPI (M) leader AK Balan himself gave vent to the party’s worries when he remarked earlier last month that it risks losing its famous Hammer, Sickle, and Star symbol if it doesn’t perform well. This explains the party’s intensified outreach to the Muslim segment by invoking the CAA in districts in the North with a dominant Muslim population.

No known migrants

But the CAA notification says a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014, can seek Indian citizenship without producing a valid passport of these countries or a valid visa from India. There are no known eligible migrants from these countries in Kerala.

But that has not prevented Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan from repeatedly declaring Kerala will not implement the CAA while addressing the masses in the northern districts. The LDF government has even gone on to move the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s move.

Touches a chord

It remains to be seen to what extent the party’s stand bring in votes, but its spiel seems to have touched a chord in the Muslim-majority Malappuram district. It may have started to resonate even outside, judging from members of the community. “It is not as if discomfort caused to brethren anywhere outside doesn’t bother us,” a PR professional said.

“We exchange messages in our group with members from all communities. We discuss implications of issues such as CAA and NRC with a direct bearing on the Muslim community. All have expressed concerns over the divisive ‘us versus others’ agenda of the ruling party,” the Thiruvananthapuram-based professional told businessline.

Symbol for all aspirants

The party has fielded all candidates, including independents it backs, under the official party symbol this time to ensure maximum representation in Parliament. For instance, Joyce George had contested on other symbols in 2014 and 2019 from Idukki, but not this time. So too KS Hamsa, an Indian Union Muslim League (of Congress-led UDF), who switched sides to be the party candidate from Ponnani.

The party must win at least 11 Lok Sabha seats from three states to retain its status as a national party. With this in view, it has deployed the creme of its state leadership in Kerala, its last and remaining bastion, from party strongholds in the North, except former finance minister Thomas Issac (Pathanamthitta) in Central Kerala.

Increase vote share

The CPM party has only three members in the current Lok Sabha after garnering only 1.75 per cent of the votes nationally in 2019. “The increase in vote share is crucial to maintaining the national party status. Hence, the CPM is attempting to field more candidates under its official symbol,” said political analyst J Prabhash.

The opposition UDF swept the 2019 polls 19-1, with the CPI (M) winning from Alappuzha only. Sitting MP AM Ariff is contesting again, but has run up against stiff resistance from Congress strongman KC Venugopal, the party’s National General Secretary, and firebrand Sobha Surendran, the best-known woman leader in the state from the BJP.

Cliffhanger contests

The CPI (M) is contesting 15 of the 20 seats, leaving the rest to LDF partners. It hopes to win from the strongholds of Kasaragod (MV Balakrishnan); Kannur (MV Jayarajan); Vadakara (Shailaja Teacher); Kozhikode (Elamaram Kareem); K Radhakrishnan (Alathoor); and A Vijayaraghavan (Palakkad) in the North. What worries the party is the fact that at least four of these are expected to be cliffhangers.