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Why did the LDF win in Kerala?

May 19, 2016

Unlike Tamil Nadu, Kerala kept its tryst with history by not allowing an incumbent government a second consecutive term since 1970s. With the return of Left Democratic Front after five years, the outgoing Chief Minister Oomen Chandy failed to do a Jayalalithaa in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. He failed to retain his chair and thus forfeited his chance this time to join the exclusive club of AK Antony, late EK Nayanar and late K.Karunakaran who had donned the mantle of the CMship thrice in the state.

LDF Wins in Kerala

Besides an unfavourable history, a number of other factors need to be analysed for the defeat of the UDF in “God’s Own Country”. After all, under Chandy’s stewardship, Kerala had indeed shown remarkable economic progress in the last five years – the state’s GDP averaged higher than the national average between 2012, 2014; the social sector had performed well on the money doled out by his government to the sector for various schemes and projects. Certain projects undertaken by him such as the Kochi Metro project, Smart City and the Kannur Airport too had put Chandy in good stead and created an impression that government did deliver during his term.

Chandy faced challenges

Yet, as a Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic once famously said — “In theater, blood is ketchup; in performance, everything’s real.” Chandy did face a real challenge not just from his rivals but even from within. He faced a real time challenge from his own Home minister Ramesh Chennithala, a state Congress president till 2014 as well as the present state Congress president VM Sudheeran who openly challenged his authority, thus creating a perceptible disunity in the Congress flank. Besides, certain corruption charges such as the much publicized Land and Solar scams against the Chandy government too did not do any good to the UDF prospects in the elections. Besides, the Left Democratic Front could also successfully exploit the inflation factor as well as the crash in the prices of two important cash crops of the state – rubber and tea – that has adversely impacted the farmers.

LDF coped better with internal bickering

Unlike the UDF, the LDF seemed to cope better with internal bickering within its ranks. Much can be attributed to the popularity of nonagenarian Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan, who is now tipped to be the chief minister for the second term, notwithstanding his own blow hot-blow cold equation with his parent party, the Communist Party of India – Marxist.

The impact of total prohibition imposed by the UDF government too could not be ignored as the LDF junked it in favour of abstinence and made it a major tool for canvassing votes.

Not to mention that unlike in West Bengal, where the Left struggles to find a foothold after it lost power to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in 2011, the Left has remained a formidable force in Kerala. The November 2015 municipal elections in the state indicated what was in store for the LDF in the assembly elections when it had bagged majority in the three-tier local bodies in 12 of the 14 districts in the state.

The LDF managed to counter the adverse impression, if any, among its voters following the Left Front’s truck with the Congress in West Bengal. The alliance could well have tested the LDF’s limits in distant Kerala but its win here against the incumbent Congress-led UDF government now further puts the Congress in the dock particularly after the voters in West Bengal out rightly rejected the Congress-Left truck in West Bengal.

Last but not the least, the BJP’s improved performance in Kerala too unlike the 2011 state elections where it had made a dent in the LDF vote bank, this time undid the UDF. The BJP’s growing clout in the state was well foreseen following its ever-growing voter share and a win for the first time to control the Palakkad municipality in November 2015.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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