As most exit polls had predicted the CPM-led LDF is back in power defeating the Congress-led UDF. In the last assembly elections, the UDF won 72 seats with the LDF bagging 68. That was a narrow victory but then the UDF had its share of five years to consolidate. The poll results confirm that the series of scams and corruption accusations against leaders of the UDF tilted the balance in favour of the LDF.
So, was it the LDF’s approach at the grassroots level that worked in its favour or was it a case of the UDF shooting itself in the foot and making way for the LDF or was it a bit of both? The latter seems a more realistic assessment.
Anti-incumbency was building up against the Oommen Chandy-led government and he was unable to get away from controversies himself. The Solar scam dented his personal image, with accused Saritha Nair making direct accusations of his involvement. The opposition-led outcry on the streets and in the assembly didn’t help Oommen Chandy’s cause either.
To add to his personal woes, two of his senior UDF colleagues, KM Mani and K Babu, were embroiled in the infamous Bar bribery scam that made front pages. In a very politically aware Kerala, all these kept building up against the ruling party and results only confirm that.
Liquor consumption in the state has touched epidemic levels and the government’s flip-flop on banning liquor didn’t go down well with a large section of people. The UDF became unpopular with male consumers of liquor, while the lack of a clear policy on banning liquor apparently lost the party a lot of female supporters.
Another factor that probably worked in favour of the LDF was BJP’s role in the run up to the election. The BJP which has been trying hard to build a foothold in the state had garnered a vote share of 6.03% during the last assembly elections and then built on that by gaining 14% vote share during the local body elections in November 2015.
The BJP’s strategy has been to try and win over the Ezhavas – a Hindu community that forms little less than half of 54.72% of the total Hindu population in the state. Towards this end, BJP tied up with Bhartiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) led by Vellappally Natesan, hoping to break the Ezhava votes in its favour, which have traditionally been supporting UDF.
The results bring out two facts. One is that the BJP failed in its attempt to win over a large section of the Ezhava community and the other, the split in votes went against the UDF and helped LDF. In addition, PM Modi’s ill-advised comment comparing the infant mortality in Kerala with that of Somalia lost a lot of supporters just before the elections.
In the end, it is advantage LDF for the next five years.