The four-decade-old trend of alternating between the UDF and the LDF coalitions will again be put to test in Kerala, where the election to its 140-seat assembly is set to be held in a single phase on April 6. Putting trends aside, many developments crucial to the state have over time tried to define voters’ sentiments, including the Sabarimala row.
The Election Commission on Friday announced the election schedule for Kerala, besides three other states – Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal – and Puducherry. Votes for all the assembly elections will be counted on May 2.
- Date of issue of notification: 12.03.2021 (Friday)
- Last date of making nomination: 19.03.2021 (Friday)
- Date of scrutiny: 20.03.2021 (Saturday)
- Last date of withdrawal: 22.03.2021 (Monday)
- Date of poll: 06.04.2021 (Tuesday)
While a saffron wave is yet to be seen in Kerala, the two major contenders in this election remain the UDF and LDF. Since the 1980s, these two major alliances have alternated in the state government with neither able to gain back-to-back victories.
The ruling LDF, which is going to fight the polls on the plank of development and welfare, claims it will buck that trend this time, the opposition UDF has pooh-poohed it, saying the people will ‘throw out’ the government, hit by allegations of corruption and nepotism.
The BJP, meanwhile, recently inducted 88-year-old ‘metro-man’ E Sreedharan, who has expressed his willingness to steer the government, should BJP win the state which continues to remain a tough nut to crack for the saffron party. It has emerged as a major force in the last five years with its leaders claiming that the NDA will be able to convert the fight into a three-horse race in several seats.
Election will be fought on…
The ruling LDF will contest the election on the performance of Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state. “LDF is always battle-ready. There will be a continuity of the CPI(M)-led government,” the alliance’s convenor A. Vijayaraghavan said.
Vijayaraghavan said that the LDF will face the election with full confidence as its government had provided all sorts of help and care to the people during times of distress, apparently referring to the floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who is also the Leader of the Opposition, has said UDF is upbeat about scoring a comfortable victory this time as people are “totally disenchanted” with the policies and programmes of the LDF government. “The people will vote out the corrupt LDF government in this election,” Chennithala said.
The party also alleged that the CPI(M)-led government encroached upon the sentiments of believers of all faiths and it would turn against them.
The Sabarimala row, pertaining to the Supreme Court’s verdict striking down the tradition of barring entry of women of menstruating age into the hill shrine, is also expected to be a major issue.
The UDF rank and file, which was frustrated after a severe setback in December 2020 civic polls, was energised after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent grassroots level campaign, reaching out to all sections of the society, including farmers and fishermen.
BJP state president Surendran said that the party, which opened its account in the Assembly for the first time in the previous polls, would prove its strength in the election. “We were able to form the government in Tripura from zero. Likewise, we can do wonders in Kerala too,” Surendran said.
Kerala has had a UDF government back in 2011 and a LDF government since 2016. In the 2016 polls, LDF had won 91 of the 140 seats, unseating the UDF which had won only 47. In 2011, LDF had won 68 as against UDF’s 72.
The LDF campaign in 2016 was led by veteran Communist leader and former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan. Since the 97-year-old leader withdrew from active politics recently owing to age-related health issues, the ruling front’s campaign would be led by Chief Minister Vijayan.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, UDF won 19 out of 20 seats as against LDF’s one.
The UDF has not projected anyone as its chief ministerial candidate. Congress recently appointed veteran leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy as the Election Management and Strategy Committee of KPCC for Kerala elections in a bid to send out a message that he is still a contender for the post.