The day before counting of votes, the Congress headquarters in Kerala, Indira Bhavan, was less busy than usual. Leaders who regularly frequent the office did not turn up Wednesday, while candidates were away in their constituencies, their fingers crossed.
The few staff members who were present at the office were focused to the TV screen as it flashed news about alleged fake voting at Dharmadam, where CPM politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan is contesting.
“No leaders have turned up today. This has nothing to do with the exit polls (which predicted defeat for the UDF). The candidates are in their constituencies, others leaders are out for various functions,” said office secretary K Panicker.
The exit polls have not lowered spirits in the Congress, which still believes it will pass the crucial number of 71 in the 140-strong assembly. The party is banking on an internal survey report that gives it 75 seats.
On the last day of his current regime, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy did not go to his office at the secretariat. The office was vacant except for security personnel. The chief minister remained in his official residence, attending to urgent files. A few Congress leaders including party candidates M A Vahid and K S Sabarinath called on him.
“What is going to be counted on Thursday is not exit poll votes,” said Chandy, who shouldered the bulk of the electioneering. “I can’t say now how many seats would UDF get. The BJP will not open its account in Kerala. Post-election, my role would be decided by the party high command.”
Chandy had two public functions Wednesday. After attending them, Chandy left for his constituency, Puthuppally, from where he will watch how the results unfold.
Although exit polls have predicted a massive victory for the LDF, some CPM leaders have taken these with a pinch of salt. “The results in some districts like those in central Kerala are likely to go against the exit poll forecast,’’ admitted a leader. CPM leaders are away from the Kerala capital, but will return Friday to attend the party’s state secretariat and state committee meetings.
At the same time, a few confident CPM leaders have already announced their programme for Thursday. CPM central committee member Thomas Isaac said he would start touring his constituency of Alappuzha by noon Thursday to meet voters. Isaac has started planting jackfruit tree saplings to mark his victory.
The BJP, which is looking for a toehold in the assembly, has been blaming the Congress and the CPM for cross-voting to prevent its victory. “We suspect a last-minute understanding in the constituencies of Nemom and Vattiyoorkavu, where we expected to win. Now, we entrust everything to God. It will be sheer luck. We are not sure about any seat,” said BJP district vice-president Kallayam Vijayakumar, who was the only leader seen at the party’s state headquarters.
But BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said his party did not believe in traditional voting patterns. “We have no fixed vote bank like the Congress or the CPM do. The BJP will emerge the winner only by snatching Congress and CPM votes. Both the Congress and the CPM have tried to defeat the BJP,” he said.