How Kerala results sprung surprises, broke several traditions

For a change, LDF and UDF will keep their existing roles; while some smart politicking paid off, some bit the dust

Pinarayi Vijayan-LDF’s victory creates new records. At the outset, the practice of UDF and LDF coming to power alternately has been broken

Social media posts have quipped that this year’s Kerala Assembly elections have seen no anti-incumbency, be it against the ruling LDF or against the opposition UDF. Kerala voters chose to keep the ruling front and opposition of the past five years for the next five, too.

LDF has made a ground-breaking victory with 95+ seats. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has managed to shut down the account opened by the BJP in 2016. The BJP this time lost its solitary sitting seat – Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram district – to V Sivankutty of the LDF.

Senior BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan gave a tough fight during the first few rounds of counting but gradually trailed and finally gave in for 2,000+ votes. On the contrary, K Muraleedharan, the Congress leader and UDF candidate who was ‘assigned to win the constituency back’, landed in the third place. He could maintain the lead at no phase of counting – even when votes were counted in UDF strongholds.

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The BJP could sustain a decent battle in just two constituencies – Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram, and Palakkad, where ‘Metro Man’ E Sridharan contested. Sridharan consistently maintained a lead till the final round, but Youth Congress leader and UDF candidate Shafi Parambil finally made a photo finish with a slender margin.

Kerala BJP chief K Surendran, who contested in two constituencies – Mancheswaram in Kasargod district and Konni in Pathanamthitta – was unable to put up a good fight in either.

New records

The LDF’s victory creates new records. At the outset, the practice of UDF and LDF coming to power alternately has been broken. For the first time in 40 years, the ruling front is returning to power with a shining victory.

The Congress’ Ramesh Chennithala, the leader of the opposition, is also creating a record of sorts. Since the state’s formation, in 1956, just one opposition leader – PT Chacko – has been unable to get a turn as Chief Minister. All his predecessors and successors have managed to become Chief Ministers, with Chennithala now turning an exception. His chances of ever rising from the party’s embarrassing debacle in this election appear grim.

CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechuri congratulated the people of Kerala for giving a second chance to the ruling party. “This result shows people’s faith in this government and the Left. This is a victory safeguarding the constitutional mandate for secularism and democracy,” Yechuri told the media in Delhi.

VS Achuthanandan, former Chief Minister and senior CMP leader, said in a Facebook note that the people of Kerala have rightly spotted the decay created by right wing politics. It is proved once again that the Sangh Parivar has no space in Kerala, he emphasised.

Notable triumphs and debacles 

The   Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) sole woman candidate, Noorbina Rasheed, has lost. The IUML had decided to field Rasheed following tremendous pressure from various quarters. There was speculation that the conservative Sunni faction, a key component of the League, would not support a woman candidate, considering their sentiment against women playing any role in public life.

However, the collateral damage of the defeat of Rasheed is that IUML leaders will argue further against fielding women candidates, say political observers including those who support the Left.

The KCM alliance strategy

Proving Pinarayi Vijayan’s strategy right, Kerala Congress Mani group (KCM) won eight out of the 12 seats it was allotted by the LDF. KCM, a splinter faction of Kerala Congress, had quit the UDF to join the Left. There was a lot of resentment in the LDF over the ‘undue importance’ given to the KCM, which has now proved unfounded.

However, to everyone’s embarrassment, Jose K Mani, KCM chairman and the son of late KM Mani, lost the battle in Pala constituency. Mani C Kappan, who won Pala in the by-election in 2019 following the demise of KM Mani, broke away from the LDF and contested under the UDF banner this time.

The LDF made a ground-breaking victory in Central Kerala, which represents a dominant Christian population and a traditional stronghold of the UDF. The BJP had made some sincere efforts to win the trust of Christians by engaging with different factions of the Church. It made deliberate efforts to reach an amicable settlement to the dispute between Jacobites and Orthodox factions as well. The strategy of the Left to align with the KCM as a counter strategy to check both the UDF and the BJP reaped results.

No room for violence

The victory of KK Rema, widow of TP Chandrasekharan, the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader who was murdered allegedly by CPM activists, is widely interpreted as a pointer towards people’s resentment against political murders.

After quitting the CPM, Chandrasekharan formed the RMP as a local party, which caused fierce political rows in the locality. After his murder, Rema took over the leadership of the party.

Things have not been smooth for the CPM since Chandrasekharan’s death. The party has had to pay a heavy price for the alleged role of its followers in the murder, now manifested as the victory of Rema with a margin of 7,014 votes.

Twenty-20, claimed to be country’s only ‘corporate political party’, could win none of the nine constituencies it contested in. Formed by the Anna Kitex Group of Companies, Twenty-20 had grabbed three panchayats seats in the local body election held last year, in addition to the  one it already held – Kizhakkambalam in Ernakulam district.

The organisation, whose stated aim is to clean up the ‘mess’ created by traditional political parties, targeted to win at least one constituency – Kunnathunadu in Ernakulam district, which is a traditionally a UDF stronghold. What it did do was create a vote split which resulted in the LDF’s victory in the seat.

Divine intervention

Left social media handles were quick to remark that the LDF’s win is Lord Ayyappa’s fitting reply to both the UDF and the BJP, which tried to create communal hostility. “It is God’s Own Country. Sabarimala is a place of worship open for the believers of all religions,” said Premkumar, a writer and political commentator.

“Lord Ayyappa, the mythical prince, brought tigress’ milk to save an ailing woman, against all odds. Ayyappa can only support a government bent on standing with the distressed,” he added.

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