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The Assembly Elections (2021) In Kerala: Success of Political Pragmatism and Social Engineering | Biju & Padmanabha

Saturday 8 May 2021

by Prof M R Biju and M.R.B. Anantha Padmanabha *

Prelude

The Election Commission of India (ECI) made the formal announcement for the assembly elections in the state of Kerala on 26th February 2021, along with the states of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and the Union Territory of Puducherry. The assembly polls to Kerala has generally treated as an indicative of a new social compact that is taking place in the state. It could also mark as a realignment of Kerala’s political landscape. The congress led United Democratic Front (UDF), the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP led National Democratic Alliance ( NDA) were all betting on an outsize impact by putting their respective political ideals and agendas. The BJP, long seen as a North Indian Political Party has made significant inroads in Kerala in the recent past and hoping to emerge as a Third Alternative through social engineering that includes wooing a section of the Christians. But the CPI(M) led LDF is experimenting with daring political moves to win a second term which is quite unusual in the state.

The CPI(M) decision to deny seats to several of its veterans has not been taken positively by its cadres, who have taken to the streets and social media to challenge it. The party wooed Kerala Congress (Mani) from the UDF into the LDF, which was embarrassing to the party to explain before the cadres. Charges of corruption and nepotism, including a multi-agency investigation into the links between the former principle secretary to the Chief Minister and a smuggling racket have taken the shine off the governance record of the left government. The Chief Minister, however was trying to turn in his favour by claiming to be at the receiving end of the political conspiracy by the central Investigating Agencies at the behest of the BJP. On the other hand, the Congress was trying to keep the leadership squabbles within by, not formally announcing a leader, but signalling the former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy could get another term. It is also struggling hard to hold on to traditional basis. Over and above, the BJP in Kerala had never imagined itself as a serious contender of power, and the opportunity in sight has intensified internal factional rivalries. No doubt the assembly elections will be an indicative of a new social compact that is taking place in Kerala and in that sense it is not merely electing a new government.

In this context, it has to be added that in the previous assembly election of 2016 the LDF led by CPI(M) secured the majority by capturing 91 seats and 43.1 percent votes, defeating the Congress led UDF which won 47 seats and 38.6 percent votes. The BJP led NDA won 1 seat and secured 14.9 percent of the votes. In the polls, the CPI(M) 26.5 percent votes followed by the Congress with 23.7 percent. In this context it has to be added that in the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls the Congress secured 37.3 percent of the votes followed by the CPI(M) which won 26 percent. In the seat wise, the UDF captured 19 out of the total 20 seats. The remaining seat went in favour of the LDF. In the 2021 Assembly elections, unlike the previous elections NDA posed a potential threat to the bipolar political order of the state in several places.

Voters and Candidates

As per the electoral statistics of the Election Commission of India, 27446039 voters figure in the integrated electoral rolls published for the 2021 assembly elections. Of it 14162025 are women, 13283724 are men and 290 are transgenders. Non-resident Indian voters number in 93415 in the state. Among them 6086 are women, 87318 are men and 11 are transgender voters. Malappuram has the highest number of voters, 3321038. The district has 1664017 women voters, 1656996 male voters and 25 transgender voters. Wayannad with 616110 voters has the lowest number of electors. It has 312870 female voters, 303239 male voters and 1 transgender voter. The electorate in other districts are Kasargode (1058337), Kannur (2061041), Kozhikode (2558679), Palakkad (2294739), Thrissur (2612032), ERnakulam (2649340), Idukki (888608), Kottayam (1593575), Allapuzha (1782900), Pathananthitat (1054100), Kollam (2135830), Thiruvanthapuram (2819710). Of the total voters 5.18 lakh voters are in the age group of 18-19. There are 622064 voters in the age group of 80 plus. More than 4 lakh voters are eligible for postal ballots.

With regard to the candidates are concerned in all 957 candidates were left in the fray for the assembly elections. A total number of 2180 nominations were filled across the state. The number had plunged to 1061 after the primary scrutiny. Malappuram had the highest number of candidates at 111 while Wayannad has the lowest at 18. The filling of nominations had opened on 12th March in the state with the issue of notification by the election Commission of India. The number of candidates is much lower this time compared to 2016 elections. This time 1119 nominations were rejected on various ground during the scrutiny.

Keeping this in background, an attempt has been made in this study to examine the facets of assembly elections 2021 in Kerala. This study has been categorised under four parts. Part one examines the significance of poll manifestos presented by the major players in the state politics - UDF, LDF and the NDA. Part two unfolds the major electoral issues confronted by the state politics in the recent past. The central theme of discussion of Part three is on the polling statistics and the concluding part makes a critical enquiry on people’s verdict.

PART I

POLL MANIFESTOS

United Democratic Front (UDF)

The United Democratic Front election manifesto guaranteed a minimum monthly income of Rs. 6000 to Kerala’s most impoverished families. The unconditional cash transfer under NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) would reduce income inequalities, mitigate starvation and help indigent households escape the worst deprivations of daily life. The scheme would increase spending, spur demand and catalyse the economy. The other promises include

1. Welfarism seemed to take centre stage in the UDF manifesto. The opposition attempted to outdo the ruling front by promising a monthly welfare pension of Rs. 3000 instead of the 2500 guaranteed by the LDF.

2. The UDF also appeared to cast its net far and wide to draw voters of various income brackets, social background, employment status, age and gender. IT seemed social welfare and subsidies trumped economic constrains in the UDF manifesto. The UDF’s 2016 election promise to prohibit liquor found no mention in the 2021 manifesto.

3. The UDF targeted home makers aged between 40 and 60 by vowing to transfer them 2,000 monthly if not already covered by the minimum scheme. income guarantee scheme.

4. The UDF fixed the minimum daily wage at Rs. 700. It also proposed a law to recover 5.5 lakh acres from illegal owners and accord the land to landless tribal people and Dalits. At a stroke, the UDF had sought to eclipse the free ration and food kits supplied by the LDF government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. The UDF manifesto put immense stock in subsidised health care. It would underwrite the medical expenses of cancer, heart, kidney, organ transplant and haemophilia patients and promised ’no bill hospitals’ in the public health sector.

6. One lakh unemployed youth would get two-wheelers at half the market price. An ex gratia one-time payment of 5,000 is on the cards for auto rickshaw and taxi drivers. Free housing for five lakh low-income families and maternity allowance for Scheduled Caste/Tribe mothers are other high lights. The UDF matched the LDF by promising a 250 minimum price for rubber. It would write off agriculture loans up to 2 lakh. It vowed to subsidise public transport and self-owned auto rickshaw and taxi fuel to make travel more affordable.

7. On the political front, the UDF promised a law to de fend the Sabarimala faith. It promised to stop back-door appointments, make it mandatory for government departments to report vacancies to the Public Service Commission and preserve the high seas for traditional fishers.

Left Democratic Front (LDF)

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) election manifesto released on Friday promised increased spending on social welfare, health and education. It pledged modernised transport and urban infrastructure, industrial corridors, high-speed rail connectivity, free housing for the poor, enhanced social welfare pensions, improved public services, better child and elderly care, rapid re skilling of unemployed youth and creation of a knowledge-based world class economy.

According to the LDF reversing in equality, protecting secular and progressive values, de fending federalism, raising the standard of living, and building a welfare State were the overarching political imperatives of the front. The front would increase monthly welfare pension from Rs. 1,600 to Rs. 2,500. An estimated 60 lakh persons would benefit. It would include homemakers in the expanded pension net.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes would get free and modern housing. The LDF announced special schemes to rehabilitate Gulf returnees and further bolster the public distribution system. It promised 40 lakh new employment opportunities, a 5,000-crore coastal development package, welfare schemes for taxi and auto rickshaw drivers, coir and agriculture workers, traditional seafaring fishers, toddy tappers and cashew workers. A 50% hike in farm wages is a key election promise.

The manifesto emphasised the State’s tourism potential. It projected future Kerala as a Mecca of liberal arts, a magnet for creative persons and an oasis of secular and progressive values. The LDF manifesto strived to shore up its core base while attempting to woo fence-voters as it approached a tight three-cornered electoral contest on April 6. The open-handed blend of increased social welfare benefits with stress on infrastructure development, reservation for economically disadvantaged forward community persons, resistance to majoritarian politics and strident opposition to the Centre’s "trespasses" on to federalism lie at the heart of the LDF’s election pitch.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA manifesto released on Wednesday leaned heavily on populist measures targeted at low-income families. It reaffirmed the alliance’s core commitment to nationalistic politics. Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar unveiled the declaration. The manifesto promised employment for at least one member in each family. An increased social welfare pension of Rs. 3,500 a month, free housing, piped drinking water and power for the poor are on the cards.

Five acres of land to deprived SC/ST families, free laptop for high school students, the promise of a hunger-free Kerala, six free cooking gas cylinders for BPL families, a monthly medical grant of Rs. 5,000 to in-patients from BPL households, travel concession for senior citizens and fair wages are the other highlights. The BPL families would receive medical assistance up to 5 lakh under the Ayushman Bharath scheme. The NDA would open Jana Oushadhi centres in all panchayats. It also promised an AIIMS centre in Kerala and upgrading district hospitals and medical colleges in the State to speciality and super-speciality centres.The NDA promised to be a bulwark against the global Islamist threat and terrorism. It pledged a State law against Love Jihad. It vowed to free temple administration from political control and hand the institutions over to collectives of devotees. The coalition promised to target terrorism, anti-national organisations and end political violence in Kerala for good.

The manifesto seemed to hark back to the principles of "integral humanism" pro pounded by the Hindu right wing ideologue Deenadayal Upadhyaya. The manifesto promised to transform panchayats to gram swaraj moored to self-sufficiency in food production, housing, drinking water supply and hygiene. Namo food joints would serve breakfast (10), lunch (20) and dinner (10) in all panchayats.

The NDA vowed enhanced rural road, internet and power connectivity, electric crematoria and garbage disposal units in villages and rapid re-skilling of rural youth to meet the demand of the global economy. A six-lane highway linking Kaliyikkavila in the south to Manjeswaram in the north would open up the State’s hinterlands for development. Motels would dot the freeway. New airports in Idukki, Wayanad and Sabarimala, development of minor ports, a new road parallel to the Thamarassery Ghat in Wayanad are other election pledges.

Profesor Pulapre Balakrishnan has made a detailed investigation on the three political manifestos presented by the UDF, LDF and the NDA (The Hindu, March 24, 2021). It would be quite appropriate to reproduce his comments and findings which can be summed up as under:

• The manifestos have been received with scepticism by the public, for they could not but have wondered how the fresh expenditures will be funded. Kerala today has one of the highest levels of public debt per capita among India’s States. Without fresh resource mobilisation of which intent there is no indication in either party’s manifesto -enhanced public expenditure assures higher levels of public debt in the future.

• Individual well-being enabled by public action is a perfectly legitimate aspiration in a democracy. However, what distinguishes the decades’ long practice in Kerala is that it is a form of welfarism far from what is generally understood when we speak of a welfare state

• What distinguishes a genuine welfare state from the Kerala Mo del is that in a genuine welfare state, benefits are financed by taxes. There were two considerations underlying this design in the original. The first was the crucial issue of financial viability. The second was to give citizens a sense of ownership of the programmes, signifying that the welfare state is not some sort of munificence extended to them by the political class but something they had contributed to themselves.

• It is difficult to imagine that Kerala will be able to permanently fund its welfare schemes through borrowing. At least, that would only be possible at ever rising interest rates, leading to a higher fiscal bur den, if not actually a debt trap. At that stage, the welfare schemes would have to end, or a Herculean effort to raise revenues would have to be initiated.

PART II
Electioneering

The LDF’s perceived advantage was its high powered campaign projecting Pinarayi Vijayan as its brand icon. That advantage got zoomed in against the backdrop of the initial disarray in the UDF over the candidate selection. The UDF led by former Chief Minister Oomen Chandi and the leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala conveniently chose to leave unanswered the question of who would lead the government if it came to power. The UDF relied on road shows by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi for its campaign. As for the BJP its election rallies were addressing by its top national leader including Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Yogi Adityanath which gave a boost to its electoral ambition in the state. However, hard the LDF tried to restrict the electioneering discourse to its development track record and social welfare initiatives such as pensions and distribution of ration kits etc. The sparring between the LDF and the UDF over Chennithala’s disclosure of over 4 lakh multiple entries on the electoral rolls across the state further augmented the campaign’s decibel levels.

Electoral Issues

Out of a series of electoral issues, Sabarimala tops the list. It was to a large extend championed by the BJP which won the lone Nemom Assembly seat in 2016. Further, the candidature of Metroman E. Sreedharan in Palakkad and the party’s top state leaders in constituencies viz. Nemom, Kazhakootam, Thiruvananthapuram Central, Konni, Trissur, Manjeshwaram etc. could create an atmosphere and impression that the party is serious in its mission to change the bipolar politics of the state. The LDF on the other hand amplified its hopes for the continuity of the Pinarayi Vijayan dispensation, with poll surveys lending support to its claim that there were no anti-incumbency sentiments among the electorate. The LDF Government’s handling of crisis including floods, NIPAH virus outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic is used to vindicate that perception. The LDF sort to neutralise its vulnerability viz.-a-viz. the investigations by central agencies into various scams by projecting them as the BJP led central government efforts to destabilise the left government.

As a routine process a mix of caste and religious interest is present to spice up to electoral scene. The UDF’s efforts to capitalise on the resentment among the fishermen over the LDF government’s pact with a US based company on deep sea fishing are pegged on the hope of wresting coastal constituencies in the Southern and Central Kerala. Further, the electoral significance of a pastoral letter issued by the Kollam diocese of Latin Catholic Church flaying the left government for devising policies detrimental to fishermen. The three fronts are kept guessing by caste organisations like NSS, SNDP representing Nair and Ezhava communities respectively. The stand of the NSS against the left government on the Sabarimala issue may turn harmful to the LDF but the SNDP leadership has decided to keep neutrality. However, BDJS headed by the son of SNDP general Secretary is continuing as an ally of the NDA. Further the election will put to the test the LDF’s hope of gaining entry into the Christian belt (Central Kerala) that has traditionally supported the UDF. The inclusion of Jose K. Mani in the LDF has raised the expectations of the Front. The LDF’s sweep of Thrissur and the inroads it made in Ernakulum in 2016 showed that the UDF’s strongholds in Central Kerala are not invincible. The LDF has also fielded more dissident UDF leaders as independents in UDF stronghold, hoping a repeat of its experiments which succeeded in the earlier polls.

1. Battle of the Kerala Congress Factions

The 2021 poll also witnessed the direct fight between two factions of the Kerala Congress, one lead by Jose K Mani an the other by P.J.Joseph. Apart from these two major factions, other small groups led by Anup Jacob, K.B. Ganesh Kumar, Antony Raju, Dr. K.C. Joseph, P.C. Thomas, Scaria Thomas, Kuruvila Mathews, P.C. George and Prakash Kuriakose. For most of them it was a do or die battle. This was the first poll after the death of Kerala Congress stalwarts like K.M. Mani and C.F. Thomas. Another founder of the Kerala Congress party R. Balakrishna Pillai could not participate in the electionairing due to his critical health condition.

In the poll Jose K. Mani’s Kerala Congress(M) and P.J. Joseph’s Kerala Congress contested in 12 and 10 seats respectively. The Kerala Congress parties are locking horns in five constituencies, with the Jose-Joseph fight on show in four-Changanassery, Kaduthuruthi, Idukki and Thodupuzha. In Piravom, Jose faction takes on KC (Jacob). Though KC(M) has gained an upper hand in Kerala Congress politics by way of a significant position in the LDF, the party leader, Jose, is facing a tough fight in his home turf of Pala. Jose takes on Mani C Kappen of the Nationalist Congress Kerala (NCK), a new constituent of the UDF. Going by the ground situation, Kappen appeared to have gained an edge in the final stage of campaigning. Realising the trend, the CPM state leadership sent special squads to Pala to ensure that its entire cadre votes are polled on Tuesday. The battle between Jose and Joseph faction is tight in Changanassery, Kaduthuruthi and Idukki as well. Of all the Kerala Congress candidates in the fray, only PJ Joseph, who is contesting from Thodupuzha, is on a strong footing. While the Jose faction’s Sindhumol Jacob is putting up a strong fight against KC (Jacob)’s Anoop Jacob in Piravom, Pathanapuram is witness ing a fierce battle between KC (B)’s Ganesh Kumar and Jyothikumar Chamakkala of the Congress. In the UDF bastion of Idukki, Roshy Augustine of KC (M)-representing the constituency since 2001 faces one of the toughest contests of his career after switching to the LDF. Francis George of the UDF is his rival there. The Janadhipathya Kerala Congress, which had contested three seats in the previous assembly elections, was allotted only the Thiruvananthapuram seat this time. Its candidate Antony Raju is facing a tough battle there against UDF’s V S Sivakumar and BJP’s Krishnakumar

2. Minority Votes as the Deciding Factor

As per the 2011 census, 45 per cent of the state’s population is minorities-26.6 per cent Muslims and 18.4 per cent Christians. Historically, Christians and Muslims in the state have taken a political view which is against that of the CPM-led fronts over the years. The front comprising CPM and CPI enjoyed minority support in between when Muslim League and strong Kerala Congress factions aligned with them like in the seven-member alliance government led by EMS in 1967 and the Left front government led by E. K. Nayanar in 1980. On other occasions, Congress had benefited from the support of minorities. It was Congress leader and former chief minister K. Karunakaran who first identified the power of a Muslim Christian alliance that would serve as a fixed deposit for the Congress. The idea led him to constitute the United Democratic Front (UDF) which scored an impressive win in the 1982 assembly polls. The Indian Union Muslim League and Kerala Congress became an integral part of the front since then. By then, the Muslim population in the state had overtaken Christians and Karunakaran fore saw that minorities would form half of Kerala’s population in another 50 years. In fact, the identity politics played by Kerala Congress and Muslim League in the early 1980s was so strong that even a section of CPM leaders feared that Left parties would not be able to come back to power if League and Kerala Congress remained as strong allies of Congress.

The alternative document presented by senior CPM leader M. V. Raghavan which was believed to have the blessings of stalwart leaders like E. K. Nayanar argued for cooperating with parties like Muslim League. This eventually led to the ouster of Raghavan from the party in 1985. CPM ideologue and then general secretary EMS Namboodiripad could very well turn the debate and present the Left Democratic Front as a true secular alternative for UDF, which he alleged was a den of communal forces of all hues. The victory of Left front in 1987 was the fruit of EMS’s ’secular strategy’ that indirectly led to the consolidation of Hindu voters behind the CPM-led front. Three decades later, when the same LDF is facing another important electoral battle, one of the key constituents is Kerala Congress (M) led by Jose K Mani, son of the late K M Mani who had founded the UDF along with K Karunakaran. Though Muslim League is still in the UDF camp, the Left front has Indian National League (INL), another Muslim party, as its constituent. INL was formed by former Muslim League national president Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait after the demolition of Babri Masjid. Though the party had collaborated with the LDF since then, the formalisation of their relationship was only done in 2018 when INL was inducted as a constituent of the LDF. The fight by both fronts this year is spiced up with several issues that concern minorities. The target of LDF is to poll at least 40 per cent of Christian and Muslim votes which will ensure a win in several fiercely fought constituencies. The calculation of UDF leadership is that a win is possible only if the front nets at least 65 per cent of minority votes.

3. Political and Social Re-Alignment in Central Kerala

There has been a political and social realignment of influential forces in areas in Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and parts of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki districts considered to be a stronghold of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the past few years. The split in the Kerala Congress (Mani) and the subsequent alignment of the official faction led by Jose K. Mani with the Left Democrat Front (LDF), in which CPI (M) is the lead partner, yielded rich dividends for the grouping in Kottayam and Ernakulam districts in the local body polls held in December last year. The KC(M) is the front’s trump card as it seeks to return to power. The CPI(M) went to the extent of annoying its own cadres by allocating the new entrant 13 seats, including some sitting CPI(M) seats where the KC(M) is not numerically strong. When protests erupted in Kuttiady in the north, for instance, Mr. Mani leveraged it to prove his worth as an ’accommodative partner’ by returning the seat to the CPI(M). But the partnership came at a cost, though minor, as per the LDF’s assessment, as it caused a split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally. The decision to allow the KC(M) to field its candidate form Pala, a seat held by the late K.M. Mani for half-a-century, disenchanted the NCP’s Mani C. Kappan, who had created history by wresting the seat from the KC(M) for the Left Front in the by-election held in 2019. In a reversal of roles, Mr. Kappan, now with the UDF, is taking on the Left’s Jose K. Mani in Pala. The ongoing strife between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Syrian Church is also expected to have its echoes in the poll outcome.

4. Dispute between Jacobites and Orthodox

The Christians form 18.4 percent of Kerala’s population. Jacobities/Orthodox sect is the second largest Christian denomination after Catholics. While Catholics form 61 percent of the total Christians, Jacobites/Orthodox sect 16%. As per the 2011 census, total Christian population in the state of Kerala is 61.4 lakh. Of them Catholics are 37.4 lakh followed by 9.8 lakh Jacobite/Orthodox believers. Among them 493858 are Orthodox Syrian Christians and 482762 are Jacobite Syrian Christians. Panthanamthita, Kozhikode, Ernakulum and Thiruvananthapuram districts have strong presence of Orthodox population. Whereas Ernakulam, Kollam, Pathanamthita and Kottayam districts have a strong Jacobite presence. Ernakulam accounts for more than 25 percent of the Jacobite population in the state.

The long standing dispute between Jacobites and Orthodox Church factions was a hot political debate in the strongholds of both factions in the 2021 polls. The issues between these two factions is connected with the ownership of assets spread over 1100 parishes of the Church by two splinter groups was closed by the Supreme Court in 2017, when it ordered to handover all the churches and related assets to the parental factions i.e. Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church.However, emotional fights by Jacobites in the grassroots for protecting their churches and denial of ritualistic funerals of believers by the other factions had delayed full execution of the Supreme Court order. In 2020, the LDF government brought in an act to make burial in accordance with religious rituals the fundamental rights of a Christian believer. In this context it has to be added that the origin of the dispute between the Jacobites and the Orthodox can be traced back from a case filed in a court in Kottayam in the year 1974 regarding the ownership of church property. A special court was formed in Ernakulam to deal with this case, popularly known as Malankara Case. Though the court, had ruled in favour of the Jacobite Church, appeals were sent to higher courts and finally in 1995 the Suprreme Court passed a judgment of the Orthodox Church. The next round of legal battle concluded with the ruling of the Supreme Court in favour of Orthodox Church in 2017. As the state government did’nt initiate takeover of Jacobite faction’s churches the Supreme Court threatened contempt of Court Actions and imprisonment of Chief Secretary in 2019 forcing the state Government to start acting finally.

Splits and reunions between Orthodox and Jacobite factions had been a regular feature ever since the establishment of the Catholic Malankara Orthodox Church in 1912. Jacobite Syrian Christian Church consists of believers who consider patriarch of Antioch (Head of Syrian Orthodox Church of the entire East) as the Supreme Head of the Church while Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church consists of believers who consider the Catholics of the East residing in Kottayam who is also the Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Church as the head. In the 2021 Assembly Polls, this Church dispute came as an active issue debated in the strongholds of both factions. UDF’s chief ministerial candidate Omen Chandi is a member of Orthodox Faction. With the Jacobite/Orthodox sect forming the second largest Christian denomination, it is only natural that major political parties including the Left seek their support and patronage.

5. SDPI and Welfare Party of India (WPI) – Spoiling the prospects of major fronts

The Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and Welfare Party of India (WPI) fielded 41 and 19 candidates respectively in the 2021 polls. Though both the parties are not major political players or forces in the state politics but they can definitely spoil the electoral prospects of both the LDF and UDF in a number of constituencies where both have strong mass base. The SDPI had contested in 89 Assembly Seats in the 2016 elections. In 2021 it has fielded at 41 candidates to focus on those seats where it can show its strength to both UDF and LDF. In the 2016 elections SDPI secured over 1.2 lakhs votes from 89 seats which was 0.61 percent of the total votes polled. Similarly the Welfare Party of India which contested in 41 assembly segments garnered over 60,000 votes in 2016. Both UDF and LDF both the taste of the damage inflected by SDPI and WPI when there candidates lost by a thin margin in a few seats. In Koduvally where WPI and SDPI secured 1566 and 1466 votes respectively in 2016. M. A Razak of the IUML lost to the LDF candidate Karatt Razak by 573 votes. In Perunthalmanna where SDPI and WPI secured 698 and 1757 votes respectively. LDF’s V Sasikumar lost to IUML’s Manjalamkuzhi Ali by 579 votes. Kannur is a classical examples of how SDPI and WPI can through a spanner in the works of a main political front. UDF’s Sadeesan Pacheni lost to Ramachandran Kadannappally by 1196 votes after SDPI and WPI together managed to secure 3685 votes. These parties know there actual votes strength in each pocket and such votes can prove crucial in the electoral battle.

6. Massive Shifting of Nair and Ezhava Votes to BJP

The poll analysis done by Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and the Center for Public Policy Research (CPPR) reveals that there is a massive increase in the vote share of the BJP in state of Kerala. It is ranged from 6% in 2011 to 15% in 2015. It was largely due to the massive shifting of two major communities in the state of Kerala – Nairs and Ezhavas. The survey categorically shows that from the year 2006 to 2019 a significant number of voters from both the community shifted their political interest from their earlier faiths. The study reveals that there was a sudden surge in the Ezhava vote base of the BJP in 2016 which can be partly attributed to the work of its ally Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) which was formed in the year 2015. Further 11% of Nair community members voted for BJP in 2006 and 2011. The study further shows a threefold increase in 2016 when BJP polled 33% of the Nair votes. The gain of BJP was the loss of the UDF whose Nair vote share decreased from 43% in 2011 to 20% in 2016. UDF had polled 38% Nair votes in 2006. Interestingly LDF gain marginally among Nair voters in 2016 as its vote share was 45% in 2016 against 44% in 2011.

The shift of Nair votes was more visible in the 2019 Lok Sabha Election when the Sabirimala issue was in its peak. BJP polled 43% of Nair votes in the elections. The UDF’s share was 35% slightly higher than 34%, it polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The real loss was that of LDF’s as it could poll only 22% of the Nair votes against 30% in 2014. Almost similar is the case of Ezhava votes. BJP’s vote share among the Ezhava community was only 6% in 2006 and 7% in 2011. However, it touched 17% in 2016. The loss here was that of LDF. Ezhava community member have been a traditional vote bank of the left which got 64% and 65% of votes of the community in 2006 and 2011 prospectively.

7. Crusade of the Leader of Oppostion Against Bogus Voters (Operation Twins)

In an appreciable initiative the leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala approached the High Court of Kerala seeking a directive the Election Commission and the CEO to take urgent steps either to delete or freeze the fake and multiple entries of names on the final electoral roll. The KPCC just after the LokSabha polls of 2019 constituted and expert team following large scale complaints of bogus voters. The study found that the final electoral roll published contained duplication of names, fake entries and enrollment of a single voter in many booths either in one Assembly segment or other segments. In his petition he pinpointed 3,24,441 cases of duplication and 1,09,601 cases of bogus votes spread across 131 Assembly constituencies. In a state like Kerala where the change of a government usually take place in a negligible votes. Therefore the manipulation of 4,34,042 votes will have significant consequences in the electoral front. In fact he had given a complaint regarding the gross irregularities on the electoral rolls to the CEO in this regard. But he had not taken any action on it. In the landmark judgment the High Court of Kerala observed that free and fair elections are part and parcel of the democratic rights of the citizens. The court made clear it that all the safe guards provided in the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) be scrupulously followed to avoid multiple and bogus voting. Later Chennithala released the entire list on the website www.operationtwins.com.

PART III

Polling

The state wen to the poll on 6th April 2021 in a single face to elect its 15th Legislative Assembly. As per the data provided by the election commission of India the overall turnout figure for the state was 74.06 percent. The highest polling was recorded in Kunamangalam constituency (81.52 percent) in Kozhikode district and the least was in Thiruvananthapuram constituency (61.85 percent). Out of the 27446039 eligible voters in the state 20327893 exercised their franchise. The district wise polling percentage are Thiruvananthapuram (70.04 percentage), Kollam (73.11 percent), Pathananthita (67.22), Alappuzha (74.71 percent), Kottayam, (72.21 percent), Idukki (70.41 percent), Ernakulam (74.13 percent), Trissur (73.77), Palakkad (76.25), Malapurram ( 74.31 percent) Kozhikode (78.34 percent), Wayanad ( 74.98 percent), Kannnur (77.70 percent), Kasargode (74.92 percent).

As cited earlier the average voter turn-out stood at a creditable 74.06 percent, though it was lower than the 2016 turnout of 77.35. The ruling Left front expressed confidence of retaining power with a comfortable majority. The UDF camp also expressed satisfaction over the voter turnout. According to the leader of the opposition, the people of Kerala expect a change and stated that the LDF government destroyed the state during the five year rule. The left leaders and top officials are immersed in corruption. UDF wave is visible. The UDF should win anywhere between 75-85 seats. The BJP lead NDA hopes to make its presence felt with authoritative victories in 5-7 seats in addition to finishing second in about 10 seats. Significantly, the Sabarimala issue dominated the political discourse on the polling day. Chief Minister Pinaryi Vijayan claimed Lord Ayyapa and all other gods would stand with the Left for being there for the people to which Congress leader A.K. Anthony retorted the CM should first apologize to the lord for the Sabarimala issue.

The state also witnessed isolated incidents of violence in some districts like Thiruvanthapuram where CPI(M) and BJP workers clashed with each other. Violence was also reported in Haripad where CPI(M) and Congress workers fought each other. In Kannur, and IUML worker was hacked. In many closely fought constituencies the voting percentage remained relatively low with BJP’s lone siting seat Nemom recording 69.80 present compared to 74.11 percent in 2016.

Poling Percentage in Kerala from 2011 To 2021

Assembly Constituency Legislative Assembly 2011 Lok Sabha 2014 Legislative Assembly 2016 Lok Sabha 2019 Legislative Assembly 2021
Manjeswaram 75.21 71.70 76.33 75.88 76.81
Kasargode 73.50 73.04 76.62 76.32 70.87
Uduma 74.17 77.30 80.45 79.33 75.56
Kanhangadu 78.54 79.82 78.66 81.25 74.35
Thrikkaripure 80.81 82.11 81.88 83.46 76.77
Payyanur 82.42 84.67 81.76 85.86 78.95
Kalliyaseri 79.36 81.67 78.33 82.93 76.41
Thaliparamba 82.63 85.03 80.97 86.18 80.94
Irikkure 77.26 78.97 78.59 80.99 75.63
Azhikkodu 82.45 80.10 81.91 81.04 77.89
Kannur 78.82 77.44 77.34 79.21 74.94
Dharmadam 83.31 83.90 83.30 85.21 80.22
Thalassery 78.68 78.72 79.43 80.33 73.93
Koothuparambu 79.80 79.61 81.03 81.44 78.14
Mattanoor 82.73 84.47 83.57 86.26 79.54
Peravoor 80.03 78.40 81.03 81.46 78.07
Mananthavadi 74.25 72.13 77.54 81.55 76.44
Betheri 73.27 71.32 78.81 81.93 74.29
Kalppatta 74.36 72.53 79.03 80.94 74.31
Vadakkara 80.76 81.56 81.54 83.03 79.33
Kuttiyadi 87.73 84.15 85.48 83.13 81.27
Nathapuram 82.28 80.04 80.77 82.59 78.80
Koilandy 81.87 79.84 81.53 81.05 77.50
Perambra 84.76 84.83 85.45 84.61 79.74
Baluserry 81.59 82.41 83.26 82.50 78.18
Elathur 82.27 83.44 83.28 83.31 78.07
Kozhikodu North 77.32 76.60 78.12 78.25 73.85
Kozhikodu South 78.08 75.93 77.57 78.54 74.24
Bepur 78.88 77.39 81.46 80.34 77.97
Kunnamangalam 84.35 83.06 85.85 84.40 81.55
Koduvalli 79.96 77.83 81.88 81.39 80.03
Thiruvambadi 79.42 75.33 80.57 81.26 77.09
Kondotti 75.76 74.37 79.40 78.11 78.21
Eranadu 80.69 78.08 81.82 81.35 77.68
Nilamboor 77.96 72.83 78.83 77.55 75.23
Vandoor 73.40 72.30 74.16 77.89 73.65
Manjerri 70.01 73.13 73.02 76.50 74.30
Perunthalmanna 71.58 71.99 77.66 73.56 74.66
Mangada 73.91 69.30 77.17 73.55 75.17
Malappuram 72.91 73.35 73.20 76.87 74.78
Vengara 68.97 95.26 70.90 71.88 69.87
Vallikunnu 72.49 70.35 74.86 77.16 74.46
Thirurangadi 65.62 70.81 73.97 74.89 74.03
Thanoor 78.12 75.00 79.99 77.00 76.59
Thiroor 75.98 75.56 76.36 74.93 73.23
Kottakkal 70.65 73.95 74.66 75.74 72.38
Thavanoor 78.15 74.51 76.88 74.54 74.38
Ponnani 76.36 71.16 74.31 71.85 69.58
Thrithala 78.46 75.84 78.8 5.64 77.30
Pattambi 76.66 77.20 77.90 77.09 76.50
Shornur 73.39 76.04 76.33 78.22 76.64
Ottappalam 75.09 76.41 76.00 77.23 75.76
Kongadu 72.85 75.82 77.14 78.80 75.15
Mannarkadu 72.90 73.95 78.38 78.22 75.46
Malampuzha 75.47 75.95 78.74 78.71 75.04
Palakkadu 72.80 72.39 77.25 75.42 73.71
Thiroor 75.17 76.43 78.13 80.18 75.90
Chittur 81.18 79.13 82.95 82.37 79.03
Nenmara 77.94 76.39 81.03 81.45 76.78
Aalathoor 75.95 77.20 79.21 81.12 77.54
Chelakkara 76.52 77.34 79.21 79.12 75.75
Kunamkulam 75.42 74.33 78.91 78.94 76.37
Guruvayur 72.01 68.35 73.17 74.34 68.40
Manalur 73.44 72.44 76.73 77.98 73.14
Vadakkanjerry 79.08 77.23 80.91 79.37 76.07
Ollur 74.47 74.19 77.93 79.76 73.84
Thrissur 69.70 68.79 73.79 74.43 68.90
Nattika 71.62 72.81 76.49 77.46 71.30
Kayppamangalam 77.39 74.53 79.29 80.21 76.62
Irrinjalakkuda 75.99 72.97 77.80 78.86 74.73
Puthukkadu 78.53 75.42 81.28 81.78 75.55
Challakkudi 76.48 73.76 78.87 77.70 72.62
Kodungalur 76.15 73.88 79.52 78.78 74.94
Perumpavur 81.42 78.04 84.25 81.71 76.32
Angamaly 81.44 78.65 83.18 79.93 76.08
Aluva 80.52 78.58 83.17 80.44 75.39
Kalamassery 79.77 76.05 81.29 80.14 75.83
Paravoor 84.20 79.14 83.94 81.70 77.15
Vyppin 79.41 74.94 79.87 78.37 74.72
Kochi 66.61 68.60 72.33 75.21 69.81
Thrippunithura 76.35 73.91 78.03 77.14 73.11
Ernakulam 71.16 68.86 71.72 73.29 65.91
Thirkkakara 73.66 72.31 74.46 76.06 69.27
Kunnathunadu 83.63 81.67 85.93 84.40 80.99
Piravam 79.37 73.03 80.58 75.13 72.46
Muvattupuzha 75.29 72.81 80.15 77.87 73.53
Kothamangalam 74.48 74.01 80.50 79.84 76.77
Devikulam 72.42 70.55 71.23 70.88 67.32
Udambanchola 72.00 71.77 75.56 79.24 73.33
Thodupuzha 71.97 68.83 72.24 75.63 70.16
Idukki 70.50 70.16 76.69 74.09 68.94
Perumedu 69.67 67.94 73.36 76.67 72.27
Pala 73.66 68.71 77.61 72.68 72.54
Kaduthuruthi 77.17 67.01 69.59 71.11 68.02
Vayikkam 79.15 77.35 81.19 79.85 75.51
Ettumanur 78.51 73.59 79.96 77.25 72.88
Kottayam 77.54 72.84 78.37 76.54 72.57
Puthuppally 76.44 70.13 77.36 75.45 73.22
Changanassery 72.56 69.55 75.24 72.62 70.29
Kanjirappally 70.01 68.52 76.39 77.96 72.12
Punjar 70.16 65.23 79.39 77.27 72.47
Aroor 84.23 81.86 85.82 83.67 80.02
Cherthala 75.08 84.22 86.73 84.98 80.52
Allappuzha 81.20 79.40 80.68 80.44 76.16
Ambalappuzha 79.68 77.04 78.90 78.43 74.60
Kuttannad 78.64 74.34 78.76 76.28 72.21
Harippadu 78.42 77.04 78.89 78.16 74.06
Kayamkulam 76.73 76.01 73.13 76.55 73.02
Mavelikkara 75.21 73.58 75.45 74.53 71.09
Chenganoor 70.88 67.73 73.73 70.19 68.98
Thiruvalla 65.33 63.38 69.23 71.43 63.34
Ranni 68.54 64.12 70.42 70.65 63.82
Arannmula 65.63 64.91 70.82 72.00 65.45
Konni 71.86 68.12 72.9 74.24 71.42
Adoor 69.61 68.14 74.37 76.64 72.04
Karunagappally 75.51 75.95 79.37 78.23 78.51
Chavara 79.59 76.47 78.55 77.21 76.09
Kunnathur 74.09 74.49 76.63 77.78 75.22
Kottarakkara 74.34 71.78 75.04 73.81 72.23
Pathanapuram 74.23 68.96 74.83 73.69 72.05
Punalur 70.14 70.38 70.60 72.43 69.28
Chadayamangalam 71.78 70.91 73.78 73.81 70.72
Kundara 71.48 73.70 76.22 75.79 73.92
Kollam 71.06 72.86 74.92 75.05 72.12
Eravipuram 68.16 70.11 73.40 73.52 70.57
Chathnoor 73.13 70.44 74.03 72.98 72.24
Varkkala 72.55 67.83 71.54 70.30 70.23
Attingal 66.78 69.82 69.53 74.59 70.61
Chirayinkeezhu 66.25 68.62 70.22 73.86 70.79
Nedumgadu 71.07 68.51 74.11 75.38 71.54
Vamanapuram 70.75 69.06 71.70 73.59 70.90
Kazhakkuttam 67.11 67.58 73.70 73.19 69.63
Vattiyurkkavu 64.24 65.06 70.23 69.34 64.16
Thiruvananthapuram 60.39 63.04 65.36 67.41 61.92
Nemam 67.60 68.17 74.24 73.31 69.80
Aruvikkara 70.29 69.25 75.86 75.97 73.27
Parasala 71.80 73.12 75.17 76.91 72.41
Kattakkada 70.57 67.75 76.65 75.58 72.21
Kovalam 68.09 71.07 74.23 76.00 70.76
Neyyattinkara 70.77 72.40 75.25 77.27 72.23

Source: The Malayala Manorama Daily, Kollam, 7th April 2021

Legislative Assembly Polling Percentage in Kerala 1957 - 2016

Year of Poll Polling Percentage
1957 65.49%
1960 85.72%
1965 75.12%
1967 75.67%
1970 75.29%
1977 79.19%
1980 72.23%
1982 73.51%
1987 80.54%
1991 73.42%
1996 71.16%
2001 72.47%
2006 72.38%
2011 74.92%
2016 77.10%
2021 74.06%

Source: The Malayala Manorama Daily, Kollam, 7th April 2021

PART IV
People’s Verdict 2021

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) won the assembly election with an impressive tally of 99 out of 140 seats, which matches the victory of A.K. Antony led UDF in 2001 and V.S. Achuthanandan led LDF in 2006. In 2001 A.K. Antony emerged winner by bagging 99 seats and in 2006 V.S. Achuthanandan won by bagging 98 seats. Yet another example too can be traced back from the political history of Kerala. In 1977 the United Front led by the Congress, CPI and the Muslim League returned to power by capturing 111 out of 146. Further the state of Kerala has a unique political record of alternating between the two Fronts in every five years. This record of four decades has been broken now and the LDF government has been voted to power with a two-third majority. It becomes a landmark as it is prior as it is rare for an incumbent government to retain power by capturing more seats than the previous time. A mix of policies in which development and welfare measures were added in the right proportion and executed over the last 60 months paved the way for the spectacular victory of the LDF. It is a new experience in the state politics after 1977. In other words the present victory of the LDF can be described as a well thought out political strategy coupled with political pragmatism and social engineering which helped the LDF to capture power. Certainly the entry of Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) and Kerala Congress (Mani), the formal induction of Indian National League (INL), the popularity of Pinarayi Vijayan in handling the governance in times of crisis and calamities and the goodwill generated through social security measures especially welfare pension scheme, distribution of food kits through ration shops have helped the Left in an enormous way. Further right from the implementation of Nava Kerala Mission projects to bring remarkable changes in the education and health sectors and to provide housing for the poor under Life Mission Project which also paid rich dividends for the Left over and above Pinarayi also made some daring moves in social engineering.

Yet another reason for the spectacular return of the LDF was that after the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha Polls of 2019, the LDF took a strategic retreat by the front in the Sabarimala Women’s Entry issue. The civic polls held in November, 2020 was the testing ground for this strategy and the Left made huge gains out of it. The more accommodative stand cured the hurt feeling of majority communities and the reading of the Assembly Poll Results makes it clear that the LDF could win the sizeable number of Hindu votes along with minority votes that had mobilized through strong stands taken during issues such as beef ban and Citizen’s Amendment Act etc. On the other hand the strategy of UDF was to put up strong fight with young, new faces did not fetch the desired results as voters seemed to have made their choices based on policies.

Further, the voting pattern in the poll showed that the party-wise vote share of the CPI(M) stood at 25.38% the Congress 25.12% and the BJP led NDA 12.47%. Incidentally, the vote share of the CPI(M) was 26.70% Congress 23.80% and the BJP led NDA 10.60% in the 2016 Assembly polls. Moreover, the voting pattern of the LDF further reveals that party heavy weights though secured huge margins, many sitting legislators and fresh faces failed to either maintain the lead in the previous polls or managed to scrape through. The overall poll strategies further reveals that both the LDF and UDF secured more votes in 2021 polls compared to the earlier assembly elections of 2016 and Lok Sabha Elections of 2019. The LDF scored the 2.67% more votes this time than the earlier assembly polls and 10.73% more votes compared with the Lok Sabha Polls of 2019. For the UDF it was a marginal increase of 0.78% in 2021 with the earlier assembly polls 2016. But in the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls UDF won 19 out of 20 seats. Compared to Lok Sabha Polls its vote share went down to 7.87% this time. In contrast to it, the NDA recorded a less vote share (minus 429834 votes) this time compared 2016 assembly polls.

Regarding the total votes secured by various fronts are concerned the LDF secured a total number of 8728934 votes (43.10%) in 2016 assembly polls. In 2019, it came down to 7140120 (35.08%) and in 2021 it went upto 9436990 (45.33%), an increase of 708056 compared to 2016 assembly polls. The UDF on the other hand got 7808743 (38.63%) votes in 2016. It gone to 9616265 (47.24%) in 2019. But it came down to 8194991 (39.37%) in 2021. Though the vote share of the UDF came down from 9616265 in Lok Sabha polls 2019 to 8194991 in 2021, but compared to the 2016 assembly polls it depicted an increase of 386248 votes. In contrast to the performance of both LDF and UDF, the BJP led NDA presented a downward picture in 2021. In 2016 the NDA secured a total number of 3020830 votes and in 2019 it increased its tally slightly by securing 3161922. But in 2021 it came down 2590966 a steady decline of 570956 votes in 2021. In short the vote variation of the LDF and UDF in 2016 was 4.55%. In 2019 the difference between both the fronts gone to 12.16% and in 2021 won it came down to 6.14%.

The following tables further illustrates the details of poll outcome, both party wise and region-wise in a detailed manner.

Election Results 2021 in Nutshell

LDF
CPI (M) 68
CPI 17
KCM 5
JD (S) 2
NCP 2
LJD 1
INL 1
CONGRESS (S) 1
RSP (L) 1
KC (B) 1
UDF
INC 22
IUML 14
KC 2
NCK 1
KC (J) 1
RMP 1

Women Representation in Kerala Legislature 2006-2021

Year Seats contested and won Percentage
LDF UDF NDA
2006 11/7 7/0 11/0 5%
2011 13/7 8/1 14/0 5.7%
2016 17/7 9/0 12/0 5%
2021 15/10 12/1 18/0 7.8%

Assembly Segments won/lead*

Party 2021 2016 (c) 2019 (c) 2021 2016(c) 2019 (c)
LDF CPI(M) 62 4 46 81 11 68
CPI 17 -2 17 74 -2 74
KEC (M) 5 -1 -1 42 2 -44
JD (S) 2 -1 2 50 -25 50
UDF INC 21 -1 -75 23 -3 -63
IUML 17 -1 3 68 -10 -32
Kerala Congress 2 2 2 20 20 20
RSP 0 0 -7 0 0 -100
AIADMK 0 0 0 0 0 0
BDJS 0 0 0 0 0 0

^ (wins/contested seats) * leads in 2019 c * Change (increase or decrease)
Source : The Hindu 3rd May 2021, Thiruvananthapuram

Vote share in Percentage — 2016-2021

Party 2021 2016 (c) 2019 (c) 2021 2016(c) 2019 (c)
LDF CPI(M) 24.9 -1.9 -1.0 46.9 2.7 18.5
CPI 7.2 -1.1 1.1 46.1 1.3 16.1
KEC (M) 3.8 -0.3 1.7 41.3 2.6 -5.0
JD (S) 1.5 0.3 1.5 45.2 3.4 45.2
UDF INC 23.9 0.5 -13.6 37.5 -0.4 -8.7
IUML 8.6 1.0 3.1 45.0 -0.4 -9.1
Kerala Congress 2.8 2.6 2.0 40.5 31.4 23.5
RSP 1.3 0.3 -1.1 33.9 2.9 -17.8
BJP 11.6 1.4 -1.4 13.8 -1.1 -3.2
NDA AIADMK 0.1 -0.1 0.1 6.8 3.4 6.8
BDJS 1.0 -2.8 -0.8 7.8 -7.3 -1.7

Source : The Hindu 3rd May 2021, Thiruvananthapuram

Region Wise Vote Percentage — 2016 & 2021

LDF
Region 2021 2016 (c) 2021 2016 (c) 2021 2016 (c)
Cochin 45.8 3.5 13.7 -1.8 35.8 -2.0
Malabar 37.7 0.3 10.3 -0.8 39.4 -0.6
Travancore 41.5 1.5 14.7 -2.4 36.3 0.2

Source : The Hindu 3rd May 2021, Thiruvananthapuram

Vote Percentage of LDF, UDF and NDA — 2016-2021

LDF
Year 2016 2019 2021 2016 2019 2021 2016 2019 2021
% of votes 43.10 35.08 45.33 38.63 47.24 39.37 14.93 15.53 12.47
Total No.of votes secured 872 8934 714 0120 943 6990 780 8743 961 6265 819 4991 302 0830 316 1922 259 0966

Note : (a) In 2021, the LDF secured 708056 more votes compared to 2016 assembly polls. (b) The UDF on the other hand scored less than 386248 votes compared to 2016 assembly polls (c) Compared to 2016 assembly polls the NDA got 429834 votes less than 2016 assembly polls.
Source : The Malayala Manorama Dtd. 4th May 2021, Kollam

Difference of Votes in Percentage — Frontwise 1982 - 2021

Elections UDF LDF BJP Difference of votes
Seats won % Seats won % Seats won %
1982 Assembly 77 42.28 63  47.24 0 2.75 1.04
1984 Loksabha 17 50.38 3 41.86 0 4.83 8.52
1987 Assembly 78 44.40 61 45.07 0 6.48 0.67
1989 Loksabha 17 48.99 3 44.14 0 4.82 4.85
1991 Loksabha 16 48.59 4 44.28 0 3.85 4.31
1991 Assembly 92 48.18 48 45.97 0 4.76 2.21
1996 Loksabha 10 44.75 10 44.00 0 6.09 0.75
1996 Assembly 59 44.84 80 46.03 0 4.76 1.19
1998 Loksabha 11 46.08 9 44.06 0 8.02 2.02
1999 Loksabha 11 46.63 9 43.36 0 8.05 3.27
2001 Assembly 99 48.90 40 43.70 0 5.02 5.20
2004 Loksabha 1 38.38 18 46.15 0 12.08 7.77
2006 Assembly 42 42.99 98 48.58 0 4.84 5.59
2009 Loksabha 16 47.83 4 41.98 0 6.45 5.85
2011 Assembly 72 46.03 68 45.13 0 6.04 0.90
2014 Loksabha 12 41.96 8 40.09 0 10.81 1.87
2016 Assembly 47 38.59 91 43.14 1 14.93 4.55
2019 Loksabha 12 47.24 8 35.08 0 15.53 12.16
2021 Assembly 41 32.23 99 38.37 0 12.4 6.14

Note :
Table has been compiled by the authors based on the data provided by the Election Commission of India. Here the details of National and State Level Parties alone are taken into account.

Region-wise Poll Analysis – 2021

a) Southern Kerala

Systematic campaigning, government’s Pro-welfare measures, electorates hesitation to change guard mid pandemic, motivated voting and an optimistic election manifesto had aided the LDF in South Kerala. The BJP had emerged as a decisive third force during the early phase of the Election Campaign. However, the last minute consolidation minority votes favouring the ruling front had blended the party’s edge hustings. So had intra party feuding between the leaders. The BJP did not lack campaign funds, crowd pullers, the National Leaders and party workers. However, it failed to make an impact in the southern region of the state despite being resource rich. Emotional issues like Sabarimala had a low impact on voters. South Kerala was also swept up in the pro-LDF wave that swamped the state. Most ruling front legislators retained their seats. LDF dominated Thiruvananthapuram bagging 13 out of 14 seats. In Kollam, the LDF retained 9 out of 11 seats.

b) Central Kerala

In spite of the impressive victory of the LDF Jose K. Many’s unexpected setback in Pala to UDF candidate Mani C. Kappen by a margin of 15378 votes was a shocking one not only for Central Kerala but for the entire state. A shift in about 10000 votes from the BJP’s kitty from 2016 was sighted by Jose K. Mani as the key reason for his defeat. Jose’s loss has also created a confusion within his party whether the victory of LDF has to be celebrated or to mourn the defeat of the party chief. The party boss will have to lead Kerala Congress (M) without any parliamentary position at a time when the Political front of his party going to be part of the New Government. Certainly it will be a testing time or Jose’s capability to control his own senior colleagues with more experience and political wisdom than him. But it is a fact that the victory of Kerala Congress (M) in 5 seats out of 12 contested, it has opened a lot of opportunities for Jose in the LDF. Like the previous local body elections, LDF’s association with the KC(M) helped it make inroads into the Christian vote banks in Central Travancore. Taking advantage of the situation, he can act as a link between LDF and the Church. Similar to the position of Jose K.Mani the other faction of the Kerala Congress led by P.J.Joseph and P.C.Thomas too was not comfortable, in the electoral battle. The party contested in 10 seats and won in Two constituencies – Thodupuzha and Kaduthuruthy.

(c) Northern Kerala

In Northern Kerala this time incumbency wave seems to have helped the LDF to win almost the same number of seats it bagged in 2016 polls. By sweeping the election the LDF gained from the positive attitude of voters towards the Chief Minister. Out of the 60 seats in Kasargode, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad districts the LDF emerged victorious in 36 seats. The Front has lost a few seats but it also captured others. The LDF not only retained the 3 seats in Kasargode but gained an additional seats Azhikode in Kannur district. Palakkad which saw some exciting photo finish moments in some constituencies and also gave upper hand to the LDF. The BJP saw its major defeats in Manjeswaram and Palakkad. In Wayanad the LDF lost its sitting Kalpetta seats. Similarly in Kozhikode the front lost Vadakara seats to RMP nominee K.K.Rema who was backed by the UDF.

Exit Poll Surveys

A detailed analysis of the exit poll survey and its results showed that absence of anti-incumbency was the major reason behind their prediction of LDF’s big victory. Exit Poll by Chanakya found that 63% of voters were satisfied and didn’t want a change in government against 28% who preferred a change. The poll also noted that all major communities favoured LDF in the poll. LDF has support of 43% of Nairs and 57% of Ezhavas. Among Christians 44% supported LDF against 45% who supported UDF which also won support of 53% Muslims. LDF would fetch 36% of Mulsim votes and 68% of SC/ST votes predicted the survey. The agency predicted a sweep winning from 93 to 111 seats. The survey conducted by VMR for Manorama News preferred LDF and respondents from all age groups except above 65 years preferred LDF. The exit poll conducted by C Voter found that vote share of BJP would reduce by 1.2 % and also hinted that BJP’s loss would be gain for the UDF. In reality the vote share of BJP dipped by over 2.5%.

Erosion in NDA and sharp decline in Ezhava votes

The vote share of the BJP and its allies, which was 6.03% in 2011 Assembly Election, jumped to 10.81% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It then saw a considerable rise to 14.96% in 2016 Assembly polls and then to 15.54% in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. In the local body polls of 2020, the figure dipped slightly to 15.02%. In the present Assembly polls BJP alone had recorded a voted share of 11.33%. If the votes of BJP’s allies are also taken into consideration, the NDA has provisional vote share of 12.4% denoting a decline of over 2.5% compared to the 2016 Assembly Election. What worried the BJP more was the 12% erosion of votes in its strong hold Nemom constituency which the Saffron Party proudly calls it as Gujarat in Keala. The Congress national leadership deployed its senior leader and parliament member K. Muraleedharan to the battle field to close the loan account in the state. Muraleedharan’s mission was successful in ensuring the defeat of BJP but it indirectly helped LDF candidate V. Sivankutty. In fact Muraleedharan turned out to the biggest spoiler for the BJP. The erosion of BJP votes in Nemom was unbelievable. While BJP’s O. Rajagopal polled 47.46% votes in 2016 in 2021 Kummanam could garner only 35.56% of votes. It is clear that a major share of Hindu votes came for the recue of Muraleedharan son of Late K. Karunakaran. Moreover NSS too extened its support to him. Muraleedharan polled nearly 23,000 more votes than the UDF candidate who contested in 2016. UDF’s vote share which was below 10% in 2016 gone to 25% this time.

The state wide performance of BJP further shows that the party managed to emerge as runner-up in nine constituencies this time. Interestingly, the party had emerged as runner-up in seven seats in the 2016 Assembly Election. Among the seats where the BJP emerged runner-up in 2021, the party was able to increase its vote share only in Palakkad (6.26%), Attingal (5.94%), Chathannur (5.69%) and Malambuzha (1.78%), when compared to the 2016 Assembly Election. However it has also to be noted that the Saffron Party suffered vote erosion in Kasargod (-3.89%), Vattiyoorkkavu (-3.1%), Kazhakkuttom (-2.84%), Manjeswaram (-1.96%) compared to 2016 Assembly Election. Moreover with regard to the Ezhava votes are concerned, it depicted a graph of decline. Certainly it is highly damaging to the NDA in general and BJP in particular. The NDA’s vote share in the state had climbed from 6.6% in 2011 Assembly polls to 14.96% in 2016 after BDJS joined its fold. However its vote share declined to 12.04% in 2021. The vote share of BDJS declined from 3.93% in 2016 to 1% in 2021. It seems that a sizable section of Ezhava voters who were with the Left parties before the formation of BDJS have now returned to their mother fold.

Concluding Observations

1. The overall poll analysis undoubtedly shows that a mix of policies in which development and welfare measures were added in the right proportion and executed over the last 60 months paved the way for the spectacular victory of the LDF. It is a new experience in the state politics after 1977. In other words the present victory of the LDF can be described as a well thought out political strategy coupled with political pragmatism and social engineering which helped the LDF to capture power. Certainly the entry of Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) and Kerala Congress (Mani), the formal induction of Indian National League (INL), the popularity of Pinarayi Vijayan in handling the governance in times of crisis and calamities and the goodwill generated through social security measures especially welfare pension scheme, distribution of food kits through ration shops have helped the Left in an enormous way. Further right from the implementation of Nava Kerala Mission projects to bring remarkable changes in the education and health sectors and to provide housing for the poor under Life Mission Project which also paid rich dividends for the Left. Over and above Pinarayi also made some daring moves in social engineering.

2. Yet another reason for the spectacular return of the LDF was that ,after the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha Poll 2019 the LDF took a strategic retreat in the Sabarimala Women’s Entry issue. The civic polls held in November, 2020 was the testing ground for this strategy and the Left made huge gains out of it. The more accommodative stand cured the hurt feeling of majority communities and the reading of the assembly poll results makes it clear that the LDF could win the sizeable number of Hindu votes along with minority votes that had mobilized through strong stands taken during issues such as beef ban and Citizen’s Amendment Act etc.

3. Though the BJP projected themselves as a challenge to the state’s bipolar polity, the party miserably failed even to retain its lone seat. Despite working out a Nair-Ezhava binary and securing confidence of a section of Christian community the party could not hold on. Multiple factors led to poor performance of the party. Generally the BJP or NDA was unable to match the social base of either the CPI (M) or the Congress. The poll results was nothing but a total washout of the BJP and NDA from the state of Kerala.

4. The NDA’s vote share in the state had climbed from 6.6% in 2011 Assembly polls to 14.96% in 2016 after BDJS joined its fold. However its vote share declined to 12.04% in 2021. The vote share of BDJS declined from 3.93% in 2016 to 1% in 2021. It seems that a sizable section of Ezhava voters who were with the Left parties before the formation of BDJS have now returned to their mother fold.

5. This electoral predict can also be treated as a reply to the critics of the CM within the party and Left Front who were baiting for his blood after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll setback. It has come as a major morale booster fro both CPM and CPI which have been reduced to a mere patch in the national political scenario, but also given hopes of a re-emergence.

6. In conclusion it can be stated that Pinarayi Vijayan broke a long term jinx that prevented any incumbent from retaining power beyond a single term in the state. The state wise picture shows that the LDF was triumphant in both southern and central regions of the state but come a bit short in the northern region. Before conclude it can be added that no doubt the second Pinarayi government will have to deal with a series of challenges from the day of its entry. The worsening COVID situation, the unpleasant fiscal position of the state and above all the group rivalry within the CPI (M) will certainly pose threat to the Chief Minister.

* (Authors:

  • Prof. M.R. Biju, Dean, School of Legal Studies and Head, Department of Public Administration and Policy Studies, Central University of Kerala, Kasargode – 671320
  • M.R.B. Anantha Padmanabha, Deputy Editor, South Asian Journal of Socio-Political Studies)

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