Updated: May 1, 2021 7:57:05 pm
On the eve of the counting of votes in the Kerala Assembly election, the incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by Pinarayi Vijayan appeared confident of ‘thudarbharanam’ or re-election, buttressed by its own internal calculations as well as a series of exit polls which have predicted its victory with varying degrees of margins. If it happens, it will be an end of the 40-year-old trend in the state’s politics of no incumbent getting re-elected.
On the other hand, the principal challenger Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is counting on ‘adiozhukkukal’ or undercurrents at the booth-level that may have been missed by pollsters as well as the impact of the high-octane campaigns of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
For the BJP, while a shot at power in the state is still a distant dream, it aims to substantially increase its vote-share and strength in the Assembly to underline its relevance.
If the exit poll numbers hold true, it will mean that there’s no heavy anti-incumbency sentiment prevailing in the state to dislodge the Vijayan government. His administration has gathered a general sense of goodwill for its delivery of essential food kits to all ration-card holders during the Covid-19 lockdown last year as well as enhancing the monthly social welfare pensions to different kinds of beneficiaries such as differently abled, elderly, widows and agricultural labourers.
Although its nature of raising money abroad has attracted censure of CAG and the Opposition, the LDF has tom-tommed the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) as a valid and transparent agency to push investments into key sectors such as education, health, roads and power. The government’s handling of the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic last year had come in for praise from national and international healthcare experts, though the scale of the pandemic has risen dramatically this year.
The campaigns of the Congress and the BJP meanwhile have been thrust on a range of issues that include alleged corruption and nepotism within the administration, the ‘betrayal’ of sentiments of Hindus on Sabarimala, the colossal debt of the government and the spate of political killings.
The Congress particularly has attacked the government and the chief minister on the gold smuggling case, in which the CM’s former principal secretary was arrested, the allegations of data privacy being violated in the Sprinklr case, the backdoor appointments to plum govt posts to those close to the CPM, and the recent deal purportedly signed with a US company to manufacture deep-sea fishing trawlers.
As for the BJP, it ran a high-pitched campaign, bringing in its star-power from the Centre such as PM Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, ministers Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani and chief ministers like Yogi Adityanath. It’s campaign, particularly in seats like Konni, Kazhakoottam and Nemom, rode on the emotive issue of Sabarimala. Whether that will deliver results will be seen on May 2.
In the 2016 Assembly election, the LDF rode to power winning 91 of the 140 seats, reducing the UDF to 47 seats. The BJP had opened its account in the state, winning one seat. The half-way mark is 71.
On April 6, the state registered a voter turnout of 74.57%, though this figure is not final as the postal votes had not been tallied. On Sunday, counting is scheduled to take place in 633 halls across 114 centres in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols. Counting officials, candidates and their agents have to mandatorily take either two doses of the vaccine or produce a negative RT-PCR certificate to gain access to the centre. No celebrations or victory processions are allowed post counting.
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