Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has retained power in Kerala by bettering its 2016 tally and by breaking the state’s dreaded record of voting out every incumbent regime for the past 40 years. The LDF victory also means Kerala continuing to provide a lonely oasis of power and influence for the Left amid its pan-India meltdown which stands amplified by the Marxists’ yet another humiliation in Bengal on Sunday.
The LDF victory is being seen as a popular endorsement of the Pinarayi government’s welfare schemes, including multiple pensions for vulnerable sections, the handling of the back-to-back floods, the Nipah and Covid outbreaks by providing medical care and free food-kits to all, and also an endorsement of Pinarayi’s style of leadership.
“This is a victory of the people. People have endorsed the policies and decisions taken by our government. People also think only the LDF can fight for and secure the interests of the state and find solutions to issues that we face as a state,” Pinarayi said in his post-victory press conference.
“People know only the LDF can take an uncompromising stand against communalism….People have also endorsed many steps, including easing of doing business our government took for the development of Kerala”.
The victory makes Pinarayi Vijayan (75) the most influential CPM leader whose writ can now run from the AKG Centre in Thiruvananthapuram to AKB Bhavan in Delhi. This victory also marks the first time Pinarayi is powering his party’s and LDF’s victory in an assembly or Lok Sabha poll thus acquiring an aura of mass appeal and vote-catching ability, something that has hitherto been credited to his one-time inner-party rival and now retired colleague VS Achuthanandan since the VS-Pinarayi leadership came to dominate the Kerala CPM for past two decades. He is expected to run his second term with a handpicked cabinet, having denied many seniors party tickets by imposing a two-term cap.
At the time of writing, the LDF tally was hovering around 100 which is more than double of UDF’s 41, and is up from the 91 it had won five years ago. The UDF tally marked a slip down from the 47 of last poll even as senior leaders Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy managed to retain their seats. The poor UDF show means a loss of face for the Rahul Gandhi-Priyanka Vadra duo who, this time, chose to lead the Congress campaign in anticipation of a UDF rebound. The Congress in Kerala being out of power for two consecutive terms means sharpening of the internal faultlines, besides the party and UDF facing new challenges in retaining its traditional base that had provided electoral shelter to Rahul Gandhi when he had to look for a safe passage to the LS after sensing defeat in Amethi.
The BJP, which had won one seat in 2016 and led an aggressive campaign led by PM Modi in Kerala , ended up with a humiliating zero with state president K Surendran losing both the seats he contested; ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan losing by over 3,000 votes from Palakkad and senior leader Kummanam Rajendran losing the sitting seat of Nemom where he replaced lone outgoing party MLA O Rajagopal.
Pinarayi led the victory match of LDF winners which included all but one minister who contested this time. The victory would mean the CPM politburo member becoming the first CM to extend his term between two elections, a feat last done by the late Congress stalwart K Karunakaran in 1981. It is also the first government to meet the rare record of an incumbency regime retaining power after completing its full term, a feat last achieved by the Congress-CPI government led by C Achutha Menon in 1977.
While the LDF victory is further built on the impressive show it put up in the civic polls six months back, the UDF defeat means a huge meltdown from the 19-1 victory it scored in the last Lok Sabha polls.