As Kerala goes to the polls on April 6, a look into the 10 factors that are likely to have a significant bearing on the results.
1. Handling of the COVID-19 pandemic
Initially, the government had won praise for its efforts to counter the COVID-19 spread and even garnered global attention. However, the state government has been now embarrassed as it is apparently finding it difficult to contain the surge of the disease. Kerala and Maharashtra account for most of the active COVID-19 cases in the country currently.
2. Welfare schemes
The government implemented the welfare schemes flawlessly and in a time-bound manner. The distribution of food kits that started during the COVID-19 lockdown last year is still continuing. Welfare pension was raised to Rs 1600. Salary and pension revisions were implemented. The salary deducted from the government employees would be paid back from April.
3. Victory in local polls
The victory in the local body results has boosted the confidence of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). A favourable verdict by the people at a time when the government was embroiled in controversies was significant. This also sent a message to the party followers that controversies do not have a bearing on votes. The LDF had went ahead in 101 Assembly seats as per the local body poll results. But the United Democratic Front (UDF) was ahead in 123 seats as per the 2019 Lok Sabha poll figures.
4. KIIFB funding
The government had promised development projects worth Rs 50,000 crore via the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), in five years. But projects worth only Rs 20,000 crore have been completed. The opposition has alleged that these projects are being taken up with borrowings from the market. But the government claims that the construction and renovation of schools, roads and bridges were possible with such fundings.
5. A slew of controversies
A slew of controversies had put the government on the defensive. Gold smuggling, dollar smuggling, Life Mission irregularities, brewery row, Sprinklr deal, misappropriation of flood relief funds, CAG report leak, Kerala Police Act Amendment bungle and finally the deep-sea fishing row really shamed the government. Cornered, the LDF leadership and ministers often pass the buck to officials and washing its hands off the matter.
6. Political shift
While the Kerala Congress (M) led by Jose K Mani was inducted into the LDF, Mani C Kappan and his supporters moved over to the UDF camp. The LDF is confident that it can make gains with the entry of Kerala Congress. And the UDF is hopeful that Kappan's arrival would be beneficial to the Congress-led front in Pala. The LDF believes that the gains made due to the Kerala Congress' support in the local body elections can be repeated at least in central Travancore. However, the UDF believes that the Kerala Congress would not be able to face the challenge posed by Kappan in Pala.
7. Sabarimala imbroglio
The row over women's entry at Sabarimala temple had been one of the main reasons for UDF's victory in the last Lok Sabha elections. Both the UDF and LDF are likely to raise the issue during poll campaigning again. The UDF announced that it would bring in a law for Sabarimala. The government has also decided to withdraw the cases against those who protested then, fearing backlash. The cases related to the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests are also being dropped, while eyeing minority votes.
8. Job aspirants’ stir
There is strong public ire against the Chief Minister's refusal to directly hold talks with the PSC rank-holders, who have been protesting at the Secretariat for nearly a month. Only after the poll announcement came on Friday, it was decided to send one minister for talks. At the same time, temporary workers, who are mostly party sympathisers, are being made permanent in government services in violation of the Supreme Court ruling.
9. The chief factor
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had stated in the Assembly that he was of a 'special genus'. The upcoming Assembly polls would also be a test of Pinarayi's unique administrative and leadership style. CM Pinarayi is both applauded and criticised for his uncompromising nature. His tough demeanour even during public events have given rise to criticisms. But some also justify it as a genuine response.
10. Community, religion
The stance adopted by community and religious outfits are likely to have a significant bearing on the polls. Voters are likely to be swayed by issues such as reservations for forward castes, handling of the Church case and government interventions in cases against community leaders.