On one side was Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and on the other, a set of national leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. On one side was the LDF government which had held Kerala together during the unprecedented crisis including Nipah, floods and COVID-19 and on the other an opposition including Congress and BJP which limited their duty to demand the resignation of the CM one over the other. day.
As Kerala again chose Pinarayi Vijayan and the LDF government by giving it an overwhelming majority, it made a date with history.
The Pinarayi-led LDF government rose to power winning 99 of 140 seats, becoming the first government in the past 40 years to win a second consecutive term in the state. What he broke was an alternate power priority between the UDF and the LDF every five years. The Congress-led UDF won 41 seats while the BJP lost the only seat it won in 2016.
“We trusted the people of Kerala and they trusted us,” Pinarayi Vijayan said after the results were announced.
If we want to distinguish one of the most significant factors of this election, it is the Pinarayi factor. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the state had split into pro-Pinarayi and anti-Pinarayi war zones as the elections progressed. Grounded in the solid experience of his governance and the leadership skill he demonstrated during the hours of crisis – the two back-to-back floods of 2018 and 2019, the fear of Nipah and COVID-19 – Pinarayi led the LDF government with confidence. The drastic improvement the state has witnessed in the public health and education sectors has strengthened the goodwill of its government.
Social protection measures the state government had initiated over the past five years – including social pensions and food security measures – have increased its popularity among the most vulnerable segments of society.
“If the Keralites felt safe and protected during the hours of crisis as the rest of the country went through many hardships, they only have Pinarayi Vijayan to thank. And they thanked him for their votes, ” said PS Krishnan, a political observer. According to him, the victory belongs exclusively to Vijayan.
What has helped the LDF, besides the image of the CM, is the intelligent political engineering that it has been doing for some time. Most crucial among these factors is the entry of the Kerala Congress (M) into the fold of the LDF despite opposition from various quarters. It helped the left gain a foothold in the Catholic community which was a traditional Congressional voting bank. Support from the Jacobite community – another congressional voting bank – also helped the FDL in qualitative terms. That the DFL could win the trust of the Muslim community too was evident in the overwhelming majority that the ruling alliance recorded across the state.
The Sabarimala factor did not work in this election despite both Congress and the BJP desperately trying to bring it back. All the top leaders of the BJP and Congress, including Modi and Rahul Gandhi, had tried to make this a problem. Congress even promised to pass legislation that would penalize women who attempt to enter the Sabarimala shrine. But looking at the results, one can see that the overestimation of the problem only backfires.
The fact that Congress lowered its seats further from the 2016 election despite an unusually strong fight does not bode well for the party. From creating one of the best candidate lists he has ever had, to setting up a united fight putting aside all differences between groups and using Gandhi to end of state, Congress had done everything right this time around.
“It’s an unexpected loss. But we accept failure, ” said Ramesh Chennithala. “But Congress will not end with this defeat,” he added.
The only relief Congress has in this election, interestingly, is the fact that the BJP has lost its sole seat. The Saffron Party, despite its high decibel campaign and expectations of winning 20 seats, failed miserably and its vote percentage also declined.
“We will look at what went wrong. We will continue to be a strong opposition, ” said K Surendran, state president of the BJP.
As opposition leaders scramble to accept the unexpected defeat, the resounding victory is sure to make Pinarayi stronger within the party and the LDF.