The return of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) to the seat of power in Kerala was a foregone conclusion. Its resounding victory for the second consecutive term is an affirmation that people are not averse to choosing the incumbents if they find their leadership responsive, responsible, efficient and effective. Much of the credit for winning a second term for the LDF goes to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the soft-spoken and dynamic leader who galvanized the State Administration ably by handling the crises ranging from Covid pandemic to Nipah or rain-induced deluge and landslide.
Not only did the Left Front win a second term, it improved its tally from 91 (in an Assembly of 140) to 99. In terms of popular votes, the LDF received 43% votes while the UDF polled 38 %. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) had to be content with just 41 seats, of which 21 went to the Congress and 15 for the second major partner, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), down from 18 in 2016. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) failed to win any seat but garnered 12.26% of popular votes against nearly 15% in 2106.
The proactive role of the Left Government was also powerfully endorsed with Health Minister A. K. Shailaja winning at her home turf with the largest margin i.e., 61,000. Close on heels, CM Pinarayi Vijayan won his Dharamadam seat by the thumping margin of over 50,000. Analysis reveals that minorities like the Muslims and Christians have increasingly shown more inclination towards the Left in the wake of the communal agenda of saffron forces. This must be seen in the context of Congress adopting a stance akin to the BJP on the entry of women into Sabarimala shrine in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling removing the bar on women. The decline in seats for the IUML too serves as an index.
Most of the wins and defeats were by slender margins. The State BJP President Surendran lost the fight from Manjeshwaram by just 800 votes at the hands of IUML’s A. K. M. Ashraff, a new face and State President of the Muslim Students Federation. IUML’s Najeeb Kanthapuram registered the victory by the smallest margin of 38 votes from Perinthalmanna constituency against independent candidate K P M Musthafa. The IUML’s only Muslim woman candidate, advocate Noorbeena Rasheed lost against Ahammed Deverkovil of the Indian National League (INL), an LDF constituent. It was only the second time that the IUML had fielded a woman candidate.
Interestingly, the new House has the CM and his son-in-law both as members. P. A. Mohammed Riyas, son-in-law of CM Vijayan won the election from Beypore, near Calicut. He is national president of Democratic Youth Federation. Riyas, 44, married Veena, Vijayan’s daughter in June last year. It is a second marriage for both of them.
Defeat of ‘Metroman’ E. M. Sreedharan is a notable loss. A BJP candidate from Palakkad, he was defeated by Shafi Parambil, the State President of the Youth Congress. Along with the Assembly election, byelection to the Malappuram Lok Sabha seat was also held. IUML’s Abdussamad Samdani won the Muslim dominated region with a margin of 1.15 lakh votes against V. P. Sanu of the CPI(M). Interestingly, BJP’s National Vice President Abdulla Kutty was also in the fray from the seat and secured over 68,000 votes. The byelection was caused due to the resignation of sitting MP Kunhalikutty who wanted to shift to the State politics hoping a key portfolio in the event of the UDF win. Kunhalikutty, however, was elected to the Assembly from Vengara constituency.
Victory of K. K. Rema adds a sour note to the LDF win in Kerala. Rema won the Assembly election from Vadakara constituency. She is wife of slain CPM activist T. P. Chandrasekharan. She defeated Mayanth Chandran of Loktantrik Janata Dal, a minor ally of the CPI(M). Her husband T. P. Chandrasekharan was allegedly killed by CPM workers on May 4, 2012. TP was engaged in exposing the murderous politics of CPM. Following his death, she had floated the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) and has won the Assembly election with the help of UDF. It is rather bizarre that she would be the lone woman sitting opposite the treasury benches in the House as UDF has no other woman MLA. Conversely, the LDF has ten women MLAs.
The second consecutive defeat for the UDF must evoke introspection. The Congress’ ageing leadership is being held responsible for the current electoral predicament for the party which heads the UDF. Although Rahul Gandhi’s meetings showed a lot of popular appeal, the party could not translate them into votes. The UDF had won 19 of the 20 seats since 2019 Parliamentary election. The party would need to bring in new faces and encourage imaginative leadership.
M A Siraj is Bengaluru based seasoned journalist who writes for a variety of newspapers including The Hindu, and news portals.