By P Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala has bucked the national trend again. This time, the State has, in the company of neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Punjab, bucked the Modi wave which washed across the better part of India.
The counting is still continuing. But the trend is clear. The Congress and its allies, the Indian Union Muslim League(IUML) and the Kerala Congress(M) are leading in as many as 19 constituencies. The Left Democratic Front(LDF) is leading in only one constituency, Alappuzha in central Kerala.
The CPI(M) is putting up a valiant fight to retain Palakkad, where the party candidate and sitting MP, MB Rajesh, is still trailing by around 11,000 votes. At one stage, Rajesh was trailing by over 29,000 votes. B ut he has managed to slash it to less than 12,000. It could be a photo finish with either Congress candidate V K Sreekantan or Rajesh emerging the winner.
There is no denying that it has been a UDF tsunami. The UDF is close to proving Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief Mullappally Ramachandran’s prediction right:d: that it would be 20 out of 20. The UDF is set to win 18 to 19 seats with comfortable margins with solitary exception of Alappuzha. The party is hanging for dear life in Palakkad.
To say that the results have come as a big shock for the ruling LDF is to state the obvious. Party leaders are too stunned to react to mediapersons’ questions.
The reasons for the stunning defeat suffered by the LDF are not difficult to define. First and foremost, there has clearly been total consolidation of minority votes, especially those of the Muslims, behind the Congress-led UDF. The minority voters who stood by the CPI(M)-headed LDF in the 2016 assembly elections, have shifted allegiance to the Congress this time around. This is evidently due to their belief that, at the national level, it is the Congress which is in a better position to counter the march of the BJP-RSS combine.
The devastating defeat must – and will – lead to a serious introspection on the part of the LDF. The general perception is that, apart from the alienation of minority voters, what has badly affected the LDF’s performance is the shockingly insensitive handling of the Sabarimala issue by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The bungling on Sabarimala is bound to come up when the LDF meets to discuss the poll debacle. The growing perception is that, besides the consolidation of minority voters behind the UDF, it is Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s insensitive handling of the Sabarimala issue which has caused the LDF such a serious electoral reverse. The defeat has cast a big shadow on the future status of the party itself. Will the rumblings lead to a demand for change in leadership? That is the million dollar question.
The poll results have also come as a big disappointment for the BJP in the State. The party was sure of opening the Lok Sabha account this time. But its hopes have been belied badly. BJP candidate Kummanam Rajashekharan who was expected to win the Thiruvananthapuram seat, is trailing Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor by over 45,000 votes when two-third of the counting was completed. It is difficult to believe that Kummanam will be able to erase the lead and go past Tharoor in the final lap. Likewise, in Pathanamthitta, which was the epicentre of the Sabarimala agitation, BJP candidate K. Surendran is in the third position! The fate of another BJP nominee, actor Suresh Gopi, who had emerged as the front-runner in Thrissur, is no different. Gopi is in the third position, conceding a big lead to Congress’s TN Prathapan.
What is the reason for the BJP’s poor show? Well, a preliminary assessment shows that the party has obviously not benefited by the Sabarimala agitation to the extent it had expected. A big slice of the Hindu vote which should have gone to the BJP has clearly gone to the Congress. The poor show could lead to renewal of factionalism in the state unit of the BJP. BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai is heading for trouble. That is for sure. (IPA Service)