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Kerala Elections 2021: ‘A Study in Contrast’ — Here are the Trends

Congress & BJP are mainly targeting the LDF on the corruption front, etc. Still, here’s what LDF could gain from.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
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The Kerala elections will be held in a single phase on 6 April. The state has witnessed a strong trend of overthrowing incumbent governments every five years since the past four decades.

You don’t need to be a pollster to predict the outcome of the Kerala elections.

In 2016, the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) defeated the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and came to power as expected.

So, in this election in 2021, as per the trend, it is the turn of the UDF to win the elections.

However, as per initial opinion polls, the LDF is projected to break the trend and emerge victorious in the elections. A word of caution, though, initial polls have proved to be wrong both in the direction and / or actual seats tally in the past.

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Do Incumbent Govts Always Get Ousted? On What Grounds?

The last time an incumbent government was re-elected in Kerala was in 1977 when the Congress-led Front (which included CPI) won the elections held after the lifting of the Emergency.

It’s not that the incumbent governments have always been voted out due to non-performance. The desire for change is so strong that it manifests itself in alternate governments.

When asked in a CSDS survey why people of the state throw out incumbent governments, voters said it is because change is better for development.

A poll of polls by CrowdWisdom360 shows the LDF winning 75, UDF 63 and NDA 2 seats. The majority mark is 71.

What the Congress in Kerala is Pinning its Hopes On

Rahul Gandhi is campaigning extensively in Kerala, which returned 19 MPs to the UDF in the 2019 general elections, in a bid to boost the party’s prospects.

The Congress is hopeful that the strong trend and recent allegations of the involvement of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the gold-smuggling case will queer the pitch in its favour.

The state is also witness to another strong trend, whoever wins the local body polls goes on to win the state elections which is normally held within 3-6 months.

In the local body polls held in December 2020, the LDF emerged victorious.

So, essentially, the Kerala elections are a story of two contrasting trends:

  • One favours the UDF (state election trend),
  • The other favours the LDF (local body elections trend)

Thorns in the Path of UDF

The UDF has been weakened by infighting, lack of fresh faces and the exit of the Kerala Congress (Mani) [KC(M)] faction.

The KC (M) holds sizeable influence amongst the Christian community especially amongst the Catholics in the Central Kerala districts, which accounts for 18 percent of the state’s population.

KC (M) has been part of the UDF for many years, and joined the LDF just before the local body elections.

The faction led by KM Mani’s son left the alliance after the Congress sided with the PJ Joseph faction in a tussle for control of the party, after the death of the patriarch.

Interestingly, the LDF had led an agitation against Mani’s father’s involvement in the bar bribery scandal during the 2016 state elections. This could be highlighted by the Congress during the 2021 campaign. This tilted the scales in favour of the LDF in the local polls, despite aggressive campaigning by the UDF and the NDA.

Though the seat tally depicts a different picture, the vote share in the local body polls was almost the same for both the LDF and the UDF, indicating a close contest, as per an analysis by Lok Poll.

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CPM vs BJP in Kerala: Whose ‘Hindu Appeal’ Will Win?

The CPM is the Hindu party of Kerala with minorities (45 percent) backing the Congress primarily due to allies like KC (M) and IUML. The Nairs and the Ezhavas from the Hindu communities used to extensively vote for the LDF.

With the entry of the BJP, matters have become complicated for the CPM. Since both BJP and CPM cater to Hindu voters in the state, this has led to bloody violence between the supporters of both groups. The CPM feels threatened, and the induction of KC (M) provides it with an extra cushion.

The relief for LDF is that Kerala is not the focus area of the BJP’s top leadership in this election as they are busy in West Bengal where they see a real chance. This makes the contest primarily bi-polar.

That said, the BJP state leadership is serious about improving its performance manifold, and has set a target of 40 seats.

The party has inducted Metro Man Sreedharan to boost its prospects in the state. Its talks with Church bodies to make inroads in the Christian community have failed, with the PC Thomas-led Kerala Congress quitting the NDA and joining the UDF.

What the LDF Could Potentially Gain From

The Congress and the BJP are mainly targeting the LDF on the corruption front, appointment of private individuals in government service through the back door, and the signing of an MOU with a US-based firm for deep sea fishing.

The statement of the main accused naming the CM in the gold smuggling case strengthens the corruption charge against the LDF. However, the CPM claims that the ED officials forced Swapna Suresh, the main accused, to frame the CM in the case.

Amid all of this, the LDF is also seeking to highlight the development works of the government worth Rs 63,000 crores, its management of the floods, and the COVID-19 crisis.

The LDF could also benefit due to the split of votes between the UDF and the NDA.

How well the alliances shape up, what is the voting preference of minorities, how the BJP performs, and the extent of damage it inflicts on the LDF — these could all determine the results in Kerala. And not to forget the two contrasting trends...

(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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