Politics

Left Front Led by Pinarayi Vijayan Retains Control of Kerala Assembly

The Kerala assembly has 140 seats – so a party or alliance needs to win 71 to form the government.

New Delhi: Bucking the trend of the state changing government’s every five years, the Left Democratic Front is on its way to staying in power for another term. The LDF is leading in 99 of the state’s 140 constituencies. The UDF is leading in 41 seats. The BJP has drawn a blank in the state.

The 2021 Kerala assembly election was a one-phase election held on April 6, 2021. The Kerala assembly has 140 seats – so a party or alliance needs to win 71 to form the government, a number the LDF seems to be comfortable crossing.

In these elections, the LDF was looking to retain power while the United Democratic Front (UDF) was hoping to make a comeback. The BJP-led National Democratic Front (NDA) has also launched a vigorous campaign, hoping to improve its vote share.

LDF’s Pinarayi Vijayan has been the chief minister since 2016.

In the last few Kerala elections, power has been swinging between the two main alliances, the LDF and the UDF, in each subsequent assembly election.

The opinion polls too largely predicted an LDF win. Some say that it is because Vijayan’s governance during two major crises faced by the state – the devastating 2018 Kerala floods and the coronavirus pandemic – was exceptional. They also claim that the Congress within the state is internally divided.

The LDF fought the elections based on the welfare initiatives of the Pinarayi government like service pension and free food kit, and the measures taken by it to effectively curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The opposition, on the other hand, had been raking up a plethora of issues including alleged gold smuggling, deep sea fishing contracts, alleged backdoor appointments in govt jobs and Sabarimala women’s entry to corner the government.

The BJP, which has only one seat in the current house, was hoping to make a major gain this election as the party fielded several celebrity leaders including ‘metroman’ E. Sreedharan and former DGP Jacob Thomas.

Trends in the past elections

2016 (vidhan sabha/assembly elections): LDF won

The LDF) led by the CPI(M) won the election, defeating the incumbent UDF led by the Congress, which could only win 47 seats in the election. Vijayan was sworn in as the chief minister on May 25, 2016. While the LDF secured 91 seats and the UDF 47, the NDA alliance only managed to secure one seat. One independent candidate had also won a seat.

2011 (vidhan sabha/assembly elections): UDF beat LDF by a small margin

The election of 2011 was one of the closest ones in Kerala’s history, with the UDF beating the LDF by a margin of four seats. While the UDF had won 72 seats, the incumbent LDF had managed to win 68. UDF’s Ommen Chandy was made the chief minister.

2019 Lok Sabha/general elections: UDF clean sweep

Out of the total 545 constituencies nationwide, Kerala has 20 of them. The key alliances that fought for Lok Sabha seats in Kerala were the UDF and the LDF. The NDA, which had not won any seat in the state had placed candidates in all constituencies.

While the UDF had won 19 seats, the LDF managed to win one while the NDA won zero seats.

2019 Assembly by-elections on six vacant seats: LDF and UDF won three seats each

Six assembly by-elections were held on September 23 and October 21, 2019, to the six vacant seats in the Kerala Niyamasabha which consists of 140 constituencies in total.

Both the LDF and the UDF won three seats each. The NDA could not win any seats.

INC’s Rahul Gandhi was a UDF candidate from Wayanad. He managed to win the constituency defeating the CPI (LDF alliance) candidate P.P. Suneer by 4.31 lakh votes while losing on the other seat he had contested, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

Main issues in 2021

Covid-19: The past five years have tested Kerala’s citizens as they have endured calamities such as the 2018 floods and the coronavirus pandemic. The handling of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala was appreciated even by the World Health Organisation. The BJP, however, believes that the state dispensation has not taken adequate measures to prevent a resurgence in cases after being hailed a “game changer”.

Sabarimala: Kerala, which generally goes to polls over scams, management of crises and welfare measures has seen a new addition to its poll issues this time: Lord Ayyappa and the permission for women to enter Sabarimala temple.

The row over women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple has been a hotly contested topic and has become a thorn for the ruling LDF government after the tug-of-war with devotees of Lord Ayyappa following the Supreme Court order on September 28, 2018 that granted permission to women of all ages to enter the temple.

Scams: The Pinarayi-led LDF government is being attacked over several charges of scams such as gold smuggling, dollar smuggling, misappropriation of flood relief funds after the 2018 floods, the deep-sea fishing controversy and the CAG report on Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) for having an “unconstitutional” borrowing model. The LDF, however, has said that the BJP is using the central agencies to go after opposition leaders it sees as a threat, as it has done in other states as well.