Thiruvananthapuram: The United Democratic Front (UDF) did not see it coming. Its hope of riding an anti-incumbency wave to power was shattered by a pro-Pinarayi wave that washed the ground beneath its feet.
While the Left Democratic Front (LDF) succeeded in getting its sure votes, a part of the anti-government votes went to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), much to the chagrin of the UDF. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan scripted history when the LDF also won the support of the minority communities.
Earlier, the then Chief Minister, C Achutha Menon, had not contested the 1977 polls, although the six-party United Front, with the CPI and Congress as senior partners, won a second consecutive term. Pinarayi Vijayan has now become the first chief minister to win a back-to-back term at power, though CPI may cite the 1977 polls to argue that CPM was not the first party to win a second consecutive term.
The CPM, meanwhile, can proudly say that Vijayan has done a Jyoti Basu in Kerala though the late CPM leader had went on to serve West Bengal as its chief minister from 1977 to 2000, leading his party to victory for five terms up to the 1996 elections.
The CPM, along with independents, won 67 — four short of simple majority -- seats, reflecting its supremacy at the polls. CPM and CPI combined has 84 seats, which could help the two communist parties complete the term without the support of other LDF constituent parties.
The CPM, however, would have to examine in detail the defeats of its Minister J Mercykutty Amma (Kundara) and sitting MLA M Swaraj (Tripunithura).
The party had been apprehensive of the result after avoiding 33 sitting MLAs, including five ministers, over the two-term norm. The CPM had also been warned from within that the implementation of the norm would lead to the loss of 10 seats.
The UDF’s list of candidates giving prominence to new faces and the euphoria it had created, also made CPM apprehensive. Considering these factors, the CPM State secretariat had pegged the number of sure seats at 75 to 82 after considering these factors.
The party secretariat also felt that the LDF could win a maximum of up to 92 seats includes those with chances of winning. The result, however, overwhelmed CPM as it went over the party’s expectations, as the Front won 99.
The LDF’s each step before the polls, including bringing the Kerala Congress (M), to its fold, paid dividends. The diplomatic channel gold case, perhaps, has had an adverse impact on the LDF since the Central agencies kept targeting the government.
God's own government
The government’s adept handling of crisis situations, however, won the support of women and youngsters. Additionally, the gods, too, seemed to have supported the Front, as the chief minister had predicted on polling day.
“Lord Ayyappa and all the other gods, even the gods of those following other faiths are with this government,” Vijayan said on April 6 in response to Nair Service Society chief G Sukumaran Nair’s comment that the curse of Sabarimala would prevent the government from winning a second term.
UDF at a crossroads
The Assembly election result, which had come after the local body polls that upset the UDF, has rendered the Congress-led Front almost irrelevant. The UDF, which entered the poll arena hoping for a change in rule, could not even retain the seats it had won in 2016.
The result has now put a question over the Congress organisational aptitude, or a lack of it. The UDF leadership, which created a storm during the initial days of their campaign, sat back expecting the people to take up the momentum and vote the Front to power.
Meanwhile, LDF went steady with its campaign, repeatedly visiting the voters and interacting with them. The UDF leadership and KPCC would have to sweat it out in the coming days while explaining the defeat.
The LDF considered each postal vote, too, important, and surged ahead of the UDF in the poll race. The UDF’s experimentation of fresh faces also did not return the desired result. Congress, however, could take relief in the fact it managed to win 21 seats as it had won in 2016.
Only Malappuram and Ernakulam stood firm behind the UDF, as in the previous poll. Still, the wide margin of defeat would haunt the party for long.