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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

As LDF bucks trend, storms back to power, why this is Pinarayi Vijayan’s win

Referring to the defeat of the BJP in Nemom, the only seat it won in 2016, Vijayan said, "Kerala is not a land for communalism. There is no space here for communal politics.''

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
May 3, 2021 4:24:23 am
Vijayan first CM in four decades to retain power.

THE CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) came back to power in Kerala on Sunday with a decisive win, breaking the state’s long tradition of the incumbent government being unseated every five years.

That the LDF won 99 out of 140 Assembly seats, eight seats more than what it won in 2016, makes this a victory of Pinarayi Vijayan, considering the LDF campaign revolved almost entirely around the Chief Minister.

Addressing the press in Dharmadam, his home constituency, after the LDF win, Vijayan said, “This is a historic victory… In the last five years, the state faced several crises, but the LDF stood with the people on all such occasions. This victory shows that people have accepted the performance of the government.”

On bucking anti-incumbency, Vijayan said, “The state had a tradition of experimenting with governments every alternate election. This election has changed that, which is why this is historic.”

Referring to the defeat of the BJP in Nemom, the only seat it won in 2016, Vijayan said, “Kerala is not a land for communalism. There is no space here for communal politics.”

Vijayan also lashed at sections of the media, saying, “Certain right-wing media tried to defame the government and fabricated stories against us. They think they can manipulate the political agenda of the state using their clout. They should self-introspect.”

With Vijayan’s leadership steering the state through a series of crises and calamities over the last five years — from the Kerala floods of 2018 and 2019 to Nipah and now Covid — the LDF campaign projected Vijayan as ‘captain’, a strategy that seems to have worked for the LDF.

The Left alliance swept 12 out of 14 districts, unseating the UDF in many of its traditional strongholds. In the Central Kerala districts of Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta, the LDF improved its tally, apparently with the support of its new ally, the Kerala Congress (M), which won five seats. However, its leader Jose K Mani lost the election from Pala.

The CPM, which won 67 of the 87 seats it contested (including 11 party-backed Independents), has emerged as the biggest winner of this election. Ally CPI, which fought from 24 seats, won 17.

The Congress, which fought on 93 seats, could win only 22, while ally IUML bagged 14 seats out of the 24 it contested. The results are a huge disappointment for the Congress-led UDF, which had won 19 of 20 seats in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

The BJP, which contested from 113 seats including its sitting seat of Nemom, drew a blank. The party’s chief ministerial candidate, Metro man E Sreedharan, lost from Palakkad.

While the Opposition campaign played on the controversies surrounding the Chief Minister, including the gold smuggling case, Vijayan pushed ahead with the LDF’s development agenda, focusing on welfare measures and developmental initiatives.

The Sabarimala issue, which cost the LDF heavily in the parliamentary elections, dent make a dent this time around despite the Congress and BJP making it part of their campaign.

Vijayan’s confidence about a return to power was evident in his decision to drop all sitting CPM legislators with two consecutive terms in the Assembly.

Many in the CPM had feared that the exit of senior leaders would affect the party’s prospects in districts such as Kannur, Alappuzha and Kollam, but the massive win of the CPM candidates in these districts proved that Vijayan’s strategy had worked.

All ministers, except CPM leader and fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma, won their elections. K T Jaleel, who had to quit two weeks ago after the Lok Ayukta found him guilty of nepotism, also managed to scrape through. Health Minister K K Shailaja won by a massive margin of 60,000-odd votes from Mattannur.

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