2-4% dip in vote share, CPM's Kerala shame story also makes 2019's big winner 2024's worst loser

K K Shailaja during a campaign in Vadakara. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling CPM in Kerala suffered a dip in vote share ranging from 2 to 4 percentage points in majority of constituencies even when it was battered by an anti-incumbency wave coupled with a resurgent BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. The biggest casualty was A M Ariff in Alappuzha, the lone winner in 2019, emerged the biggest loser this time. His vote share plummeted by 8.7 percentage points from 40.91 per cent to 32.21 per cent. The number of votes dropped by 1.04 lakh -- the worst loss for a CPM candidate as compared to 2019.

The only other constituency where CPM recorded a vote share loss of above 5 per cent was Ernakulam -- 7.8 per cent. However, CPM's hopes were slim for Ernakulam given the Congress dominance. 
In all other constituencies where CPM contested, the difference in vote share was mostly 2-4 per cent and in three constituencies -- Alathur, Pathanamthitta and Chalakudy -- the party recorded an increase in vote share.

In 2019, CPM contested in 14 LS seats and fielded independent candidates in Ponnani and Idukki. In 2024, it fielded 15 candidates and rest of the seats were contested by allies. In 2019, CPM had fielded V N Vasavan from Kottayam while in 2024 the seat was given to ally Kerala Congress (M).    

Across Kerala, the party lost around 4.9 lakh votes as compared to 2019 and except in Ernakulam and Alappuzha, the loss mostly ranged from 10,000 to 35,000 votes in other constituencies. It could add to the existing vote tally only in three constituencies -- Alathur (28600), Malappuram (14168) and in Vadakara even the CPM's best bet K K Shailaja could add just 930 votes to what the party had polled in 2019. 

CPM, which had led in 15 assembly constituencies in Parliament elections in 2019, could gain lead only in 14 in 2024. Even V Joy, the party's Thiruvananthapuram district secretary registered lead only in Varkala in Attingal LS constituency. The constituencies where CPM recorded lead this year include Shoranur, Malampuzha in Palakkad, Varkala in Attingal, Payyannur and Kalliaseri in Kasaragod, Kaipamangalam and Kodungallur in Chalakudy, Dharmadam and Mattannur in Kannur, Thalassery in Vadakara and Tarur, Alathur, Chelakkara and Kunnamkulam in Alathur. 

AM Ariff and K K Shailaja during LS poll campaign. Photo: Manorama

In Alappuzha, Ariff failed to take lead in any of the assembly segments and even trailed BJP in Haripad and Kayamkulam. In 2019, he led in Cherthala and Kayamkulam.
The party supporters find consolation in the fact that it didn't suffer much in terms of vote share in spite of three crucial factors -- the influence left on voters by BJP's double-digit target, strong sentiments against the LDF government and low voter turn-out. The 2024 LS election recorded a drop in number of voters by 6.19 lakh in Kerala. A good percentage of these electors stayed off elections thinking that even if they voted for CPM, it wouldn't make much difference at the national level because BJP's aggressive campaign held a sway over their choice. A pro-BJP tilt was driven mostly by Kerala's conviction that Modi would return and voters may have been persuaded by the BJP's slogan 'Ab ki baar, chaar sau paar'.

The party hopes that when it comes to assembly polls, these voters would prove decisive and given the fact that BJP's best performance couldn't significantly dent its vote share, assembly polls can present a different picture. 
It is cited that for a serious political re-alignment to take place in a state, the vote share of a political party should plummet by at least 10 per cent. Anything below is considered a seasonal blip that had invariably been made up. In 2019, for instance, the LDF in Kerala had a near 4 per cent drop in vote share. But two years later in 2021 it came back to power with 99 seats. 

In 2009 when the CPM was erased from the map of West Bengal, its vote share had tumbled 17 per cent and that of Trinamool Congress had shot up by 18 per cent. Also in 1989 Lok Sabha elections when the Congress was first reduced to insignificance in Uttar Pradesh, its vote share suffered a near 20 per cent fall, from 51 per cent in 1984 to 31.8 per cent in 1989.

Political scientists point out that despite a nominal dip in vote share, CPM should be more concerned about rising BJP's influence in Kerala. ''Till now Hindus had mostly voted for CPM and CPI, and Congress benefited from minority votes. Once a Hindutva party emerges, Hindu voters are getting an alternative. They now have a reason to believe that their vote could make a difference like what happened in Thrissur. The remaining tenure is going to be crucial for the CPM. Final verdict is always decided by wavering voters who have now got an alternative and CPM has to learn the lesson at least now," said J Prabhash, political scientist and former head of Department of Political Sciences, Kerala University.

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