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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 22, New Delhi, May 15, 2021

The Left Turn Continues in Kerala | Ratheesh Kaliyadan

Friday 14 May 2021


by Dr. Ratheesh Kaliyadan

Once more, Kerala turns Left with 99 seats out of 140 with 47.47% vote share. “Is there any historical significance of this success?” is the question that comes immediately after the declaration of the left victory in the minds of political science students. It is first time in the history of Kerala election politics, after 1977, the voters turned out its custom of adopting successive governments. According to the latest data from the Election Commission, Left Democratic Front (LDF) bagged 47.47 % vote share whereas the United Democratic Front (UDF) vote share is 42.91% of the total polled votes. Total number of polled votes: LDF 99.44 lakhs, UDF 89.4 lakhs and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 25.07 lakhs, where the Bharatiya Janatha Party claims 30 lakhs members in the state. The increased vote share spread all over the 14 districts which indicate that the left wave and pro-incumbency factors are universal.

What is the magic behind this left sweep? Simply because of the development alternative procession footing on equitable questions. Even as the Government of India abandoned Five-Year Plans, the Government of Kerala reiterated its commitment to the peoples planning campaign and the democratic process of development alternatives focusing on peoples’ welfare. The development strategies and activities were steady even in the midst of cyclone, floods, Nipah and Covid 19 pandemic situations. All national studies and reports mark the strategic interventions is a success including NITI Ayog’s reports. In 2018 and 2019, Kerala topped Indian States in progress in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals in NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index report. Health, education, social security and welfare measures are the icons of Kerala development alternative.

According to NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index report, Kerala ranked first in SDGs relating to health, education, and gender equality in 2018 and first in SDGs relating to health, industry, innovation, and infrastructure, and second in education and gender equality in 2019.

The strategy for the 13th Plan

It was a pre-poll announcement from Left Democratic Front (LDF) in 2016 that the Government will change the development scene by building a new Kerala (NavaKeralam). The newly formed Government reiterated this commitment through the announcement of four missions ie, (1) The LIFE (Livelihood, Inclusion, and Financial Empowerment), (2) Pothuvidyabhyasa Samrakshana Yajnam (the General Education rejuvenation Campaign) to assure child friendly high-quality equitable school education, (3) the Aardram for the people-friendly public health care and facilities, and (4) Haritha Keralam (Green Kerala) which focuses on environmental issues including nature-friendly (including organic) agriculture, waste management, a clean environment, a litter-free Kerala, clean water bodies and enhanced water resources.

Other major highlights of the left alternative is: (1) Increasing material production in agriculture and industry, (2) generating employment, skill development, livelihood security, and entrepreneurship, (3) Strengthening Kerala’s physical and social infrastructure, (4) strengthening the financial infrastructure, (5) expanding the role of modern science and technology in society and production, promoting sustainable development, and modernising governance and administration, (6) deepening people’s planning by local governments, (7) extending social protection and the struggle against social exclusion, (8) promoting activities centered on heritage, culture, promoting tourism, particularly responsible tourism, and building cultural and economic ties with non-resident Keralites (Kerala Development Report 2021).

Turbulent Time Trials

Out of the five years tenure, the last four years and a half have been the trials of turbulent experiences and experiments to recover from the damages. There were extreme weather events: cyclone Ockhi in 2017. Extreme rainfall events followed by floods and mudslides in 2018 and 2019. Kerala witnessed an outbreak of Nipah virus disease in two districts in 2018. The new blow on the State economy caused by demonetization in 2016 and the introduction of GST in 2017 was addressed bravely. As elsewhere, the crisis associated with the Covid-19 pandemic disturbed the economy as never before.

Records highlight that though the turbulent trials shook the economy of Kerala, the economic growth had a steady support. The Economic Review 2020 shows that, despite all the setbacks, the average rate of growth from 2016- 17 to 2019-20 (5.4 per cent) was higher than the average rate of growth for the previous four years, 2012-13 to 2015-16 (4.8 per cent). This rate of economic growth architecture was attained in the framework of a subdued international and national economic growth ecosystem. On the expenditure side also the steady situation should be shown. According to the annual plans sources the expenditure rate in percentage are 101.96 in 2016-17, 112.82 in 2017-18, 89.36 on 2018-19 and 74.57 in 2019-20. This shows that the turbulent trials did not adversely affect the development aspirations.

Mitigation exercises

How to tackle the turbulent situation was the big question during the last four and half years. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took all armaments in his leadership armory to face these challenges with a smiling mind and transmitted staunch confidence to the general public. During the days of cyclone, flood, rainfall and pandemic, the captain of Kerala addressed the public fabric through media every day for poring confidence and courage which expressed the strength of his political engineering. Social welfare measures, care and kindness towards the downtrodden became the center stage of disaster risk management.

Manifesto making process

Even on the last lap, Communist Party of India (Marxist) lead the Left Democratic Front (LDF) expressed its people’s admiration in the manifesto writing process too as a history making process by interacting directly with the cross section of the society. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited all the 14 districts to interact with the selected citizens along with more than 22 sectoral meetings. It includes youth, students, women and service organizations, Kudumbasree activists, religious leaders, renaissance activists, Trade Union leaders, laborers from auto rickshaw, taxi and agricultural sectors, industry including IT, startups, traditional industries and modern industrialists, academicians, scientists, differently abled ones, artists, cinema workers, sports and games winners, bloggers and media people. Organised CM@Campus programmes in 5 university campuses with “Navakeralam Yuvakeralam” tagline. From reliable sources it is known that 13,088 suggestions compiled from these interactions. Among these suggestions, the LDF enlisted 900 items in the 2021 election manifesto. Regarding the manifesto, LDF considers these suggestions are to be implemented and publishes the progress report for a social auditing. It was the practice which had last five years. “Sure, LDF” was the hashtag of LDF election campaigns which became the reality now.

Dazzling Victory

Vote share of 5 candidates have more than 60% whereas 23 candidates supersede more than 50% of the total polled votes including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (Dharmmadom) with 59.24% of votes and five ministers ie. K K Shailaja (Mattannur), M M Mani (UdumbanChola), E Chandrasekharan (Kanjangad), A K Saseendran (Elathur) and K Krishnan Kutti (Chittur). The gender representation is 11 in the 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly, better compared to the last session. LDF touches a stunning achievement of 10 women Members in the Legislative Assembly out of 15 contested. The only woman in the opposition bench is a leader of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) backed by the right-wing and the Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Defeating Kummanam Rajashekharan, a veteran BJP leader (Former state BJP president and Mizoram governor), at Nemom constituency, in Thiruvananthapuram district, Communist Party of India (Marxist) wrote another history. BJP enjoys bitter taste by accepting democratic stroke with a huge failure of its star campaigners and contestants. During the election days, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan proclaimed that “we will close the BJP’s account this time”. After a strong triangular contest, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) lost its only seat (Nemom) is yet another specialty of the 2021 Kerala Assembly Elections.

(Dr. Ratheesh Kaliyadan is the Executive Director, State Council for Open and Lifelong Education (SCOLE) – Kerala)


  • Clean and good governance, Election Manifesto, United Democratic Front 2021
  • Economic Review 2020, Kerala State Planning Board, January 2021
  • Kerala Development Report: Initiatives, Achievements, and Challenges, Kerala State Planning Board, February 2021
  • Kerala Looks Ahead International Conference And Consultation Proceedings, Kerala State Planning Board, April 2021
  • Kerala: A Significant Victory, Editorial, Peoples Democracy, May 09, 2021
  • LDF Landslide Victory in Kerala, N S Sajith, Peoples Democracy, May 09, 2021
  • New Kerala with Modi, Election Manifesto, National Democratic Alliance 2021
  • Principles of Mass communication (5th revised edition), Ratheesh Kaliyadan, 2012, Media Analysis and Research Center, Kozhikode, Kerala
  • Sure LDF, Election Manifesto, Left Democratic Front 2021
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