It wasn’t just the anti-incumbency that did Oommen Chandy in. A quick look at the results from across Kerala’s districts clearly points to the fact that a significant exodus of Hindus from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) caused its rout in the assembly election. Take a look at these figures first:
--the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has scored a vote share of 43 per cent in this election. This is, in fact, 1.94 per cent less than its 2011 vote share.
--the UDF’s 2011 vote share of 45.8 per cent has crashed to about 39 per cent.
--the BJP’s vote share of 6 per cent in 2011 has shot up to nearly 15 per cent, though it has managed to win only one seat.
So the LDF hasn’t really ‘swept’ Kerala, at least in terms of vote share. It has just about managed to retain its 2011 popular vote, and the presence of BJP and the three-way vote split, has helped it win 91 seats in the 140-seat assembly against 68 last time.
The BJP has eaten into the UDF’s vote bank in this election even more than it did in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and the 2015 panchayat polls. The BJP’s gain has come more from the UDF’s loss than from anywhere else. This is a direct offshoot of the shift of a good part of the Hindu vote from the UDF to the BJP.
Hindu upper castes like the Nairs (14 per cent of the population), who had traditionally stood by UDF, have been shifting towards the BJP since they perceived the UDF to be primarily a front dominated by minorities. Their perception comes from the fact that the UDF has always received approximately half its votes from Muslims (26.56 per cent) and Christians (18.38 per cent) which together make up for about 45 per cent of the state’s 3.3 crore population.
Interestingly, the minorities continue to stand by the UDF more or less to the same degree as they did in 2011 — the LDF was expected to snatch some of their votes. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second biggest party in the UDF which gets the Muslim votes for the front, has won 18 of the 24 seats it contested this time. It won 20 seats last time. The two factions of the Kerala Congress, backed by Christians, have won eight seats against the 10 last time.
The BJP would be content with the 15 per cent vote share and the one seat it has notched up. The party’s popular vote has gone up from a mere 6 per cent in the 2011 assembly election to 10.84 in the 2014 Lok Sabha election to 13.3 in the 2014 and to 15 now in 2016. Compared to the last assembly poll, the rise is noteworthy, but the party leaders were hoping it would improve its panchayat poll performance to over 20 per cent and pick up a few assembly seats. For the BJP, only O Rajagopal, the 86-year-old veteran of many electoral battles, has won from Nemom in the state capital.
Nemom was one of the four assembly segments in the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency where the BJP came first in the 2014. Shashi Tharoor of the Congress won the Lok Sabha seat by scoring more votes in other segments. The BJP hoped that it would win all four segments in this assembly election, but managed to get only Nemom. Party president Kummanam Rajasekharan, former president V Muraleedharan and cricketer S. Sreesanth, who were fielded from the other three constituencies, have lost, apparently because of the consolidation of minorities against them. Sreesanth, in fact, has come a poor third after the UDF’s popular health minister V S Sivakumar (who won the seat by a decisive margin) and the LDF candidate.
In the final analysis, it’s not the poll arithmetic that counts. It’s the poll chemistry that does. At the root of Chandy’s downfall were various scams and his government’s lacklustre performance. The Left and the BJP leaders made full use of this situation. At their respective election rallies, they made his government almost synonymous with corruption.
And at every election meeting of his, Chandy refuted the allegations, saying nothing had been proved. Obviously, people were not convinced. Chandy had been listing out several projects and claiming credit for them. But these projects were either non-starters or were incomplete.
The people of Kerala (93 per cent literate) are no fools. They are aware of the fact that Chandy has not addressed the real issues. One is the lack of infrastructure. Kerala’s roads, even highways, are bad and narrow. The state generates only about half the power it needs. And the lack of infrastructure, coupled with labour troubles, keeps off investors and the industry. This, in turn leads to a severe dearth of jobs. Malayalees continue to flock to other states in India and countries in West Asia for jobs.
Then in the thick of the election came the rape and murder of Jisha, a poor law student. If it was an isolated incident, it might have caused little political damage. But coming in the middle of scams, it only added to the negative impact on the UDF. The police haven’t found the culprits, even three weeks after the crime, leading to questions in the minds of cynical voters about a possible cover-up.
The BJP finally drove the final nail in Chandy’s political coffin.
Updated Date: May 19, 2016 18:34 PM