It doesn’t matter what you call it—an anti-incumbency sentiment or minority vote consolidation—the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala has surprised themselves by winning 19 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats.
Ramesh Chennithala, Congress’s Opposition leader in the state, had been frowned upon when he said the UDF was eyeing for a ‘twenty20’. But he stands vindicated now as only Alappuzha constituency has voted against the run of play, giving the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) its solitary win.
Significantly, the BJP has failed again to open its account. The BJP had high hopes in at least two constituencies, Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta, close on the heels of the Sabarimala temple issue.
The exit polls predicted that Tharoor, sitting MP in the former, would lose to popular BJP candidate Kummanam Rajasekharan. Yet Tharoor has won with a margin of close to a lakh of votes.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi won with a record majority—over four-lakh votes—in Kerala. He leads the list of UDF candidates who won with a majority of over a hundred thousand votes.
“The verdict is historic. We are bowing our head before the political conviction of the people who believe in secularism. It’s a victory of secular forces who have subjectively analysed the fascist rule of the Modi government,” says KPCC president Mullapally Ramachandran.
“The verdict also reflects a strong objection towards the Left in the state. It has been proven that the CPI(M) is not capable of opposing the Sangh Parivar forces. The verdict also exposes the politics of violence of the CPI(M), the stubbornness, the limitless ego.... The verdict shows that people opposed the way the government handled the issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala and the floods,” says Mullapally.
The results in Kerala pose questions to both the LDF and the BJP. The Communist parties which lead the front, CPI(M) and CPI, have much soul-searching to do as the combine has suffered its worst drubbing in three decades in one of its few remaining bastions.
The chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has accepted defeat but says his party has lost fighting to keep the BJP at bay. “It is the LDF’s political stances that led to the BJP not winning a single seat in Kerala. However, the opposition to the BJP government at the Centre had come in favour of the Congress party in the state,” he said.
There certainly has been cross-voting--its pattern is yet to be unraveled—that has kept communal forces at bay. Yet the BJP has had its best chance this time, riding on the crest of an emotional Sabarimala issue and a nationwide pro-BJP sentiment. In Thiruvananthpuram, it came a distant second.
The 2019 Lok Sabha results make Kerala stand out in the national context. The thinktank of the BJP has to work even harder if they want to see even the lightest of saffron hues colour Kerala. As for the LDF’s Communists, it has to find out if the results indicated any anti-incumbency.
Finally, soon after savouring their victory, the UDF and the Congress may have to conclude that winning on its own steam is different from cashing in on others’ weakness.