Column | Number crunching and data analysis: What drives the political players?

Poll-bound in Kasaragod: Not all quiet on the northern front

Three opinion polls in 2011 forecast at least 72 seats for the United Democratic Front in the Kerala legislative assembly. Overall, all polls suggested a massive verdict in favour of the Congress-led front. The alliance just enough managed 72 seats to form a government with a wafer-thin majority.

In 2016, no major survey could foresee the UDF rout or the impressive victory of the LDF. The CPM-led front won 91 seats while the UDF was relegated to just 47, lower than all major surveys had forecast.

Neither the LDF nor the UDF thinks that survey results are sure indicators. While the LDF is buoyant over its chances of continuing in the government, the UDF pins its hopes on strong contests at the local level. The BJP adds to the confusion with a strong fight in 40 to 45 seats.

The CPM state committee has estimated to win 99 assembly segments if it manages to translates the vote share it received in last year's local body elections. That includes Nemom, the only seat the BJP has ever managed to win in Kerala.

The picture that the CPM presents is that of an assembly containing the LDF in a majority and the UDF in minority. The BJP does not exist. That is the reason for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to proclaim that they will close the "account" the BJP opened in Nemom.

The CPM has collected data from all 140 assembly segments and analysed it to arrive at a conclusion that the party would win at least 80 seats. The party does not count much on contributions from the Kerala Congress (M) but the fissures the shift created in the opposition camp could work in its favour.

The LDF has not dismissed suggestions of weakness in some constituencies where senior representatives had to stay away to comply party norms limiting terms.

Kerala polls: Will Thrissur keep left? UDF thinks time for change

Yet they are confident of a majority even if they lose up to 20 of the 91 seats it won in 2016. There would be enough gains to offset any such loss, the party estimates.

The UDF is not totally disappointed by the surveys. Even the surveys suggest that the alliance has recovered from the loss in the local body elections. It could only win 40 or 41 seats if the local body voting pattern were to be repeated. Even the most unfavourable surveys grant them 55 to 60 seats. They think they are on the move.

The Congress, which won only 22 seats in 2016, is aiming for 50 this time. The Muslim League expects to win 20 of the 27 seats it is contesting from. The other allies are expected to bring in seven more seats.

If the allies bring in 27 seats, the Congress should win 44 for the UDF to come to power. That is double the seats in won in 2016. If that seems like an uphill task, the Congress could convince itself by saying that it only has to win half of the seats is fighting from. It is a matter of perspective.

The Congress is focusing its energy on the 31 seats it thinks it could tilt in its favour. The campaign schedules of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have been prepared with that aim in mind.

The BJP focus is on seven seats – Manjeswaram, Nemom, Kazhakkoottam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Malampuzha and Chathannur. They want to increase their vote share from 15 percent to 20 percent. Even if the vote share rises 17 percent, the party expects to win three or four seats and finish second in the other constituencies.

The volatility in BJP votes could affect the prospect of both the other fronts. The BJP is hoping for surprise gains in places not in news. Party leaders from Karnataka are coordinating the campaign in about 30 seats. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah do not seem to have taken off Kerala from their radar.

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