Rival claims of majority point to a closely contested election

Rival claims of majority point to a closely contested election
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan at an election campaign road show in his constituency Pinarayi, in Kannur, Sunday, April 4, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Thiruvananthapuram: A day ahead of the crucial voting to select the next government in Kerala, political parties are working silently to ensure that they have tapped into every support base. The campaign reached a crescendo on the final day on Sunday, in defiance of an election commission direction to avoid the crowded show of strength.

The excitement could be a portend for high polling. Kerala has witnessed about 77 per cent polling in the previous assembly election and the general election of 2020. The local body elections recorded a turnout of 76 per cent.

The highest voter turnout was in 1980 when the fragmented political landscape of Kerala consolidated into two rival camps to be known as the Left Democratic Front and the United Democratic Front. As poling reached 80.53 per cent, the LDF secured a majority. The CPM-led front also formed a government when polling reached its lowest of 71.15 per cent in 1996.

Data shows no evidence of any correlation between voter turnout and a particular alliance’s winning chance. Yet all political parties take voting percentage very seriously when it comes to constituency-level work. Leaders have instructed local workers to ensure maximum turnout on election day which comes after the Holy Week holidays. The parties will have to ensure that polling is completed peacefully in an atmosphere charged with allegation of bogus electors on the list.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman led the campaigns for their respective alliances on the last day of campaign.

Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman waves at crowd during an election campaign road show at Nedumangadu, ahead of Kerala assembly polls, in Thiruvananthapuram, Sunday, April 4, 2021.

The LDF leaders are confident of getting a historical second stint in power. The CPM estimates that the people are in favour of the Pinarayi Vijayan government continuing for another term. The party expects 80 to 85 seats in any scenario. The leadership is in the process of analysing final data sets collected by the party.

The UDF leadership has estimated that it has closed the gap with the LDF after initial setbacks. The front’s leaders even claim to be in a position to take a lead over the ruling alliance. They think that Kerala is ready for a change of guard. They pin their hopes on its energetic young candidates to challenge the sitting MLAs of the LDF. The UDF expects a better tally in Thrissur, Kollam and Alappuzha districts, giving them a wish list of 75 to 80 seats.

Rival claims of majority point to a closely contested election
Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan campaigning in Kottayam.

The similar expectations point to a closely contested election. That makes the role of the National Democratic Alliance all the more vital in an outcome. BJP and its allies are aiming for more than 30,000 votes in about 40 seats. They even expect to win some of those seats, a claim played down by the dominant fronts.

Yet the LDF and UDF candidates are wary of the votes that might go to the NDA. Any game plan the BJP central leadership has about Kerala will be a talking point until the day of the counting of votes.

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