THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ON a day the Congress suffered a drubbing in most parts of the country, Kerala bucked the trend and stood firmly with it, handing the party-led United Democratic Front a landslide. While the UDF won 19 of the 20 seats on offer, the Communists suffered a humiliating defeat, winning only one seat in their only remaining bastion. The verdict was almost a repeat of 1977 when the UDF won all 20 seats.
The Sabarimala factor made its impact, but not as predicted. While the CPM-led Left Democratic Front suffered a debacle, the BJP-led NDA failed to win even a single seat. The BJP, riding on Sabarimala sentiments, had entertained hopes of winning at least two seats, but the best the party could achieve was a runner-up position in Thiruvananthapuram. In all other seats, the NDA finished third. However, the BJP was able to bag close to 3 lakh votes in Pathanamthitta and Thrissur.
Alappuzha turned out to be a face-saver for the Left as A M Ariff, the CPM’s sitting MLA from Aroor, managed to wrest the seat from the Congress. In the UDF tally of 19, the Congress has 15, Muslim League two, and Kerala Congress(M) and RSP one each. Nine of these seats were won by a margin of more than one lakh votes, with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi breezing past his nearest rival P P Suneer of the CPM by a record 4.31 lakh votes in Wayanad.
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The ignominious defeat the Left suffered will have far-reaching repercussions in state politics. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will have too many questions to answer, especially on the Sabarimala front. It could even go a long way in redefining his political ambitions. State Congress president Mullappally Ramachandran and senior leader Ramesh Chennithala have demanded Pinarayi’s resignation, terming the verdict a fitting reply to his “arrogance and the Left Government’s anti-people policies.”
While the LDF suffered shock defeats in its traditional strongholds, including in north Kerala, the victory of underdogs Ramya Haridas (Alathur) and V K Sreekantan (Palakkad) over sitting MPs P K Biju and M B Rajesh respectively should further demoralise the front.
Chief Minister Vijayan, who termed the verdict unexpected, said the party would look into the factors that led to the debacle. In a statement, he said there was a strong anti-BJP sentiment in Kerala following the widespread campaigning by the Left which led to the verdict.
The exit polls about the state came true as far as the UDF landslide is concerned. BJP state chief P S Sreedharan Pillai blamed the party’s failure to win a seat on UDF’s minority appeasement tactics, but said the NDA would soon emerge as an alternative in the state. The failure is sure to trigger conflicts in the party’s state unit in the coming days. But it would not be surprising if a state leader finds a place in the new Narendra Modi Cabinet.