On 2 May,2021, the results to the Kerala Assembly election was announced, which saw the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by Pinarayi Vijayan come back to power for a second consecutive term. The LDF was constituted of 11 parties which included the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Kerala Congress (Mani). The incumbent LDF won 99 out of the 140 seats up for contest, which is 8 more than what they had won in the 2016 Assembly election. The Indian National Congress (INC) led – United Democratic Front (UDF) won the remaining 41 seats. The UDF was an alliance of 8 parties, which included the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Kerala Congress, apart from the Congress. On 20th May, the incumbent Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took oath for the second time. Ramesh Chennithala was replaced by V.D. Satheesan as the Leader of the Opposition representing the UDF.
The Major Takeaways From The Results
1) A Historic Victory:
Kerala, which has dubious history of not re-electing an incumbent government since 1977, saw this trend broken with the LDF victory. The extent of the ruling alliance’s dominance could be gauged from the fact the LDF won the majority of the seats in 11 out of the 14 districts. The coalition won 13 out of the 14 seats in Thiruvananthapuram district and 9 out of the 11 seats in Kollam district. In Pathanamthitta , the LDF won all 5 seats. The alliance also registered a victory over 4 out of the 5 seats in Idukki, 8 of the 9 seats in Alappuzha, 12 of the 13 seats in Thrissur, 5 of the 9 seats in Kottayam , 11 of the 13 seats in Kozhikode, 10 of the 12 seats in Pallakad, 3 of the 5 seats in Kasargod , and 9 of the 11 seats in Kannur. The CPI (M) secured victory over 67 out of 86 seats it had contested. The CPI, which had contested on 25 seats, won 17.
The biggest victory margins were obtained by the Health Minister of the incumbent government, K.K. Shailaja (60,963) and the Chief Minister Vijayan (50,123). The vote share of the LDF increased to 45.43% in 2021 from 43.35% in 2016. Jose K. Mani led- Kerala Congress (M), which had been a major constituent of the UDF for several decades and joined the LDF just a few months before the election, won 5 out of the 12 seats it contested. All the seats won by Kerala Congress (Mani) were earlier traditional UDF bastions. Jose K. Mani, however, failed to win the Pala constitutency, which had been represented by his father K.M .Mani for decades. The Janta Dal (S) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won 2 seats each. The Loktrantic Janata Dal(LJD),the Congress (S), the Socialist Party(L), the Kerala Congress (B) and the Janadhipathya Kerala Congress managed to win one seat each.
2) Government’s Performance Pays Off:
One of the major reasons behind the massive victory of the LDF is the incumbent government’s incredible administrative performance. The people of Kerala have rewarded Vijayan for his deft handling of the Nipah and Covid-19 viruses. Various welfare measures of the State government like providing free food kits during the pandemic have found favour with the voters. According to the CSDS-Lokniti survey, the LDF was successful in maintaining its popularity among the most impoverished sections of the society. About 53% of the poor people in Kerala decided to vote for the LDF alliance
Vijayan had run his election campaign accusing the Congress and BJP of playing the same Hindutva communal politics. Judging by the result, it can be said the electorate of Kerala has decisively rejected the communal forces in favour of a government committed to development.
3) A Huge Setback To The UDF:
The election results come as a major shock to the UDF leaders. The alliance could win 12 out of the 16 seats in Malappuram district, 9 out of the 14 seats in Ernakulam district and 2 out of the 3 seats in Wayanad district. The Congress, which is facing a threat to its existence nationally, would not to be happy with its performance. The party could win only 21 out of the 93 seats it contested. The Congress party’s organisational structure has horribly weakened and its dependence on other partners in the alliance has increased manifolds in the last decade.
Even the Muslim League, which is quite popular in the Muslim -dominated areas of the state, could not perform as well as they were hoping to. The party lost four seats in the Muslim -dominated Malappuram and other northern districts to the LDF. The Muslim League won 15 out of the 27 seats it contested. In 2016, the Muslim League had managed to win 18 out of the 24 seats it had contested. Top leaders of the League like P.K. Kunjalikkutty and K.P.A. Majeed won, but their margins were reduced. Some prominent League leaders like K.M. Shaji and V.E. Abdul Gafoor failed to win the seats allotted to them. The Congress’ decision to entrust the Kerala Congress (Joseph) with 12 seats backfired as the party could win only 2 seats. P.J .Joseph and Monce Joseph were the two victorious candidates from the party. The victories of Mani C. Kappan from the Pala constitutency and K.K Rema from Vadakara constituency would be cherished by the well-wishers of the UDF. Kerala Congress (Jacob), the National Congress Kerala (NCK) and the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI) won a solitary seat each. The UDF would take heart from the fact that it could increase its vote share to 39.40 % in 2021 from 38.79% in 2016.
4) UDF’s Failure To Connect:
The UDF was hoping to build on its splendid performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election where it won 19 out of 20 seats on offer. The UDF campaign was led by Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi who had been involved in vehemently criticising the LDF government. The Congress high command had forced the various local factions to work together in order to secure a victory. It had also introduced several new faces in hopes of attracting the youth. However, the alliance failed to provide a better alternative to the LDF. The leaders of the UDF expected that they would benefit from the Sabarimala issue, which proved to be big blunder.
The loss of Kerala Congress (Mani) proved to be fatal for the UDF as it gave the LDF an entry to the Christian -dominated areas, which have historically been UDF strongholds. The Kerala election result is of paramount importance for the Congress considering the fact that the state has virtually adopted Rahul Gandhi. The failure of Congress to win would provide further ammunition to those voices within the party that have been clamouring for a change in the party’s leadership.
5) Back To Square One For The BJP:
The BJP, which had opened its account in the state by winning the Nemom seat in 2016, could not manage to win even a single seat this time. The star-studded campaign for the party was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The BJP, which was expecting to win the Nemom , Palakkad and Manjeswaram constituencies even until the final round counting , was not able to win any of them. CPI (M)’s V. Sivakutty defeated Kummanam Rajasekharan of the BJP by 8,671 votes in the Nemom constituency. K. Surendran, the BJP State President, failed to win both the seats ( Manjeswaram and Konni ) that he contested. While he came a close second against Muslim League’s A.K.M Ashraf in Manjeswaram (he lost by 745 votes), he came a distant third in Konni, getting only 32,811 votes. K.U. Janeesh Kumar of the LDF won the seat by securing 62,318 votes. ‘Metroman’ E. Sreedharan, who was expected to be victorious by the BJP leadership, lost the Palakkad seat to Congress’ Shafi Parambil by 3,859 votes.
The vote share of the BJP fell to 12.4% in 2021 from 15.01 % in 2016.The BJP found favour with the male voters but lost a lot of support between the young voters. It is important to note that the BJP came second in 9 seats, which is an improvement from its 2016 record where it came second in 7 seats.
6) Vijayan Emerges As The Captain:
The election victory for the LDF further solidifies the position of Vijayan as the undisputed head of the party in Kerala. The hardcore supporters of Vijayan had run the election campaign terming him as ‘Captain’, which led to several party sympathisers questioning why a Marxist party was projecting an individual as the face. However, Vijayan silenced his critics after the mammoth victory, with many leaders attributing the huge margin to Vijayan’s people-friendly policies and shrewd strategies. Vijayan inducted several fresh faces into the new Cabinet, even going to the extent of dropping K.K. Shailaja , who has been credited for the successful handling of the coronavirus epidemic in the state. Some leaders of the party have expressed discontent as to how Vijayan has filled the important posts with people who are close to him. The Central Committee of the CPI (M) has been forced to accept the leadership of Vijayan. The CPI (M) has been reduced to a small player in national politics after it lost West Bengal and Tripura. The Central leaders are aware of the fact that they will have to rely on Vijayan’s credibility if they expect to play any significant role in national politics in the upcoming years.