The most significant development since the declaration of election results in Kerala has been the rejection by the CPI(M) state secretariat of chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s stand on Sabarimala issue.
Pinarayi had said even on the day of counting that the Sabarimala issue had no impact on the results, overruling his own ministerial colleague Kadakampally Surendran’s opinion that Sabarimala did have a bearing on the LDF’s poll debacle.
However, the State Secretariat which met later, opined, in the presence of Pinarayi and CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, that the party’s shockingly poor show was due, in a large measure, to the Sabarimala impact.
In a decision that must have come as a bitter pill to swallow for the Chief Minister, the Secretariat also decided to have a comprehensive probe into the electoral defeat suffered by the party and the impact of the Sabarimala issue on the final outcome.
This is a highly significant political development. So far, no one has had the courage to stand up and openly oppose Vijayan. That the Secretariat has managed to do so is self-explanatory: that things can never be the same in the post-poll debacle scene, and that cosmetic changes won’t suffice.
Now, it is time to have a close look at facts and figures. The CPI(M)-led LDF suffered a five per cent drop in its vote share. The Front polled only 35.09 per cent in 2019 as against the over 40 per cent it secured in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. As if this was not enough, the party managed to lead in only 16 assembly constituencies. A precipitous fall from the lead in 91 constituencies it had in the 2016 assembly elections.
As for the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF), it polled an impressive 47.25 per cent in 2019 as against 40 per cent in 2014. The front led in 123 constituencies as against the lead in 49 seats it had in 2016 assembly polls.
This is a rude jolt to the LDF which will take a long time for it to digest. The magnitude of the LDF’s loss can be gauged from one simple fact. Even in the Chief Minister’s constituency of Dharmadom in Kannur district, the Congress managed to come first this time around! The facts speak for themselves and no further explanation is necessary to describe the LDF’s sorry plight.
As far as the BJP is concerned, the party finds itself in an embarrassing position. True, the party has increased its poll percentage marginally from 15.06 in 2016 to 15.55 now.
But the party which was confident of winning at least two seats, Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta, drew a blank, its hopes of opening the Lok Sabha account from Kerala having been dashed to the ground. What is even more galling is the fact that party candidate in Thiruvananthapuram Kummanam Rajashekharan could lead only in one constituency as against the four in which BJP candidate led in 2016.
In Pathanamthitta, its candidate, K. Surendran, who had high hopes of winning, had the mortification of coming third!
A deeper analysis shows clearly that the UDF thrived on the reverses suffered by both the LDF and the BJP. It was a double whammy for the CPI(M). The party saw the drifting away of the minority voters, who had solidly supported it in the 2016 assembly polls, to the UDF camp. That was bad enough. But the unkindest cut was the big erosion in the CPI(M)’s traditional Hindu vote base. Results show beyond any shadow of doubt that a big slice of the CPI(M)’s Hindu vote went to the UDF. This explains the spectacular UDF victory. The extent of erosion can be seen from the fact that in as many as nine constituencies, the UDF candidates won by a majority of over one lakh votes!
Expectedly, the UDF is over the moon, savouring its moment of triumph. Victory has come its way after a series of reverses. And if the momentum endures, it can look forward to unseating the LDF Government in 2021 assembly elections.
It is indeed time for serious introspection for the CPI(M)-led LDF. The party has to reinvent itself shedding its ideological shibboleths and contradictions. The party is drawing comfort claiming that it is only a temporary setback. And that its Hindu voters will return to the party fold sooner than later! True, hope sustains human life. But if hopes and dreams are to be realized, then the party and the front will have to work hard and apply the correctives forthwith. Tinkering simply won’t do. And time is not on its side, too. At stake is survival.