As counting of votes for the Kerala Assembly polls picks up momentum, the ruling LDF government set on its glide-path to victory, beating the state’s 40-year record of voting out incumbent governments every five years. Naturally, the Congress’s inability to return to power in the state will be a huge setback for Rahul Gandhi who was practically the face of his party’s campaign. However, if the trends, so far, begin converting into actual results, Rahul is set for a double whammy in the southern state.
After four rounds of counting of votes across most of the state’s 140 assembly constituencies, it is becoming apparent now that the Kerala electorate has all but rejected Rahul’s hope for effecting a generational shift within his party during these elections. Much had been said about the party’s grand ambition of returning to power riding on the promise of a distinctly younger lot of candidates. On Rahul’s insistence, the party had decided to field nearly 50 fresh faces, including over a dozen young leaders identified from its frontal organisations like the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the Shashi Tharoor-headed All India Professionals Congress (AIPC).
However, if current trends are anything to go by, nearly all Congress candidates handpicked from its frontal organisations upon Rahul’s insistence are set for defeat – several of them are already trailing by margins upwards of 10,000 votes against their nearest rivals from the CPM and CPI. Shafi Perambil and KS Sabarinadhan, the two incumbent Congress MLAs from Palakkad and Aruvikkara respectively, who represent the Congress’s youth brigade in the state, are also trailing at the moment. Perambil is trailing the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan by over 6000 votes in Palakkad.
The Congress party’s youngest candidate in the fray – 27-year-old Aritha Babu – is also trailing CPM’s U. Pratibha in the Kayamkulam assembly seat though by a narrow margin of just over 1200 votes. Among younger candidates who are trailing by margins of over 10000 votes are AM Rohith in Ponnani, TH Firoz Babu in Shornur, Palayam Pradeep in Alathoor (trailing CPM’s KD Prasenan by over 21000 votes), Dr. Sarin in Ottapalam and Sinul Laloor in Nattika.
The other significant take away from the current trends in the seats suggests an even more worrisome situation for the Congress. Though the BJP is struggling to actually win seats (it’s presently leading in just three assembly constituencies), it is weaning away crucial votes in almost all seats where the Congress decided to put up its young candidates; invariably picking up enough votes to upset the Congress’s chance of victory against the CPM.
Congress campaign managers had earlier told Outlook that while Rahul wanted the party’s list of candidates to reflect a generational shift in its state unit, internal surveys conducted by them in the run up to the polls had also suggested that the Grand Old Party had a better chance to trump the formidable LDF ruling coalition at the hustings if it fielded a large chunk of new faces and benched several incumbent legislators. However, trends at the moment show that both Rahul and his party misread the mood of the Kerala electorate.