Poor Kerala Lok Sabha election results cost CPM 'national party' status, put Left's future in jeopardy
The CPM and BJP had laughed off exit poll predictions that the Congress and its allies in Kerala may bag between 13 and 15 seats, but the actual results have stunned them
The CPM and BJP have conceded the historic win secured by the UDF this time as an unprecedented wave in favour of the latter
The national leadership of the CPM was counting on Kerala to remain relevant at the national level, something it has failed to secure
A party needs to secure at least six percent of the valid vote in an Assembly or a Lok Sabha election in any four or more states and win at least four seats in a Lok Sabha from any state or states to be recognised as a national party according to the Election Commission criteria
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party had laughed off exit poll predictions that the Congress and its allies in Kerala may bag between 13 and 15 seats, but the actual results have stunned them.
The number of seats it has won (or almost won) and the huge victory margin of its candidates has surprised even the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress. The victory margin of two candidates is above two lakh, seven above a lakh and six over 50,000. The margin is above 10,000 in the remaining four seats that the UDF is winning. The lowest margin is in Alappuzha, the sole seat that has favoured the CPM.
No party has won the election by such huge margins in the history of the state. The margin was above one lakh only in one constituency in 1977 and 1984 when the state saw a similar sweep by the UDF. The LDF had won three seats by a margin of over one lakh votes in 2004, when it won 18 of the 20 seats.
The CPM and the saffron party have conceded the historic win secured by the UDF this time as an unprecedented wave in favour of the latter. However, both parties differ on the factor that has triggered the wave. While the BJP claims that it was the people's determination to punish the LDF for its government's attempt to trample with the faith of believers, the CPM has attributed it to the false campaign by the Congress that it would dethrone Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress believes party candidate Rahul Gandhi's candidature in Wayanad in north Kerala to be the fountainhead of the wave. The Gandhi scion has scripted history by winning the election with a record margin of over four lakh votes. The victory margin of as many as five of the eight candidates is above 75,000 and two above 50,000.
Two of the eight seats that UDF has won in the North this time were the LDF monopoly for the past three decades. The CPM lost Kasargod by over 41,000 votes and Palakkad by over 11,500 votes. Rajmohan Unnithan of the Congress said that the twin murder of two Youth Congress workers has also played a major role in his victory.
"The CPM has dug its own grave by pursuing its politics of violence. This is a strong warning to the party to end the violence. If the CPM does not stop the physical annihilation of its rivals, it will disappear from the state as in other bastions of Tripura and West Bengal," he added.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that the party will introspect and correct any wrong it has done. He said that the LDF had focused its campaign for the ouster of the BJP from power at the Centre. This, he said, had led to a consolidation of minority votes in favour of the UDF. He asserted that the party would survive the crisis.
"Many had written off the Left in 1977 and 1984 when we suffered similar setbacks, but we staged a comeback by winning the Assembly elections in 1980 and 1987. We will overcome the current setback too in a similar way," Balakrishnan said.
However, the setback the CPM has suffered in the election will cost the party its national status. The national leadership of the party was counting on Kerala to remain relevant at the national level. A party needs to secure at least six percent of the valid vote in an Assembly or a Lok Sabha election in any four or more states and win at least four seats in a Lok Sabha from any state or states to be recognised as a national party according to the Election Commission criteria. The CPM will not be able to meet this condition since it has drawn a blank in other states where it has contested the election.
The election has dealt the biggest blow to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that was hoping to repeat a Tripura in the state with the help of the Sabarimala temple issue. The party, that considered the 28 September, 2018 Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple as a golden opportunity to realise its political ambition could not make any impact even in the constituency where the temple is located.
The party that fielded Sabarimala struggle hero K Surendran in Pathanamthitta, has been pushed to third position. The only saving grace for the saffron party is the second place its candidate Kummanam Rajashekharan has secured in Thiruvananthapuram, another seat that the BJP counted on for opening its account in the state.
BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai has refused to blame the violent protests the party led against the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 in Sabarimala for its debacle. He pointed out that the party had increased its overall vote share in the state and added it will help the party in the Assembly election.
The actual number of votes polled by parties is still not known. However, the BJP has increased its votes substantially in at least eight constituencies, where the party fielded heavyweights like Suresh Gopi, Alphonse Kannanthanam and Shobha Surendran. While the vote share of Kummanam crossed three lakh, Suresh Gopi and K Surendran have polled nearly three lakh votes each. The votes polled by the two other candidates are above two lakh and another two above a lakh.
The Congress has attributed its victory to Rahul. State party president Mullappally Ramachandran said that Rahul's candidature had helped the party regain not only the minority votes it lost in the previous election but also secure a sizable chunk of the Hindu votes. He claimed that the party candidates in many seats had received even the traditional CPM votes.
Mullappally termed the setback suffered by the Left as the people's verdict against its government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The chief minister has not reacted to the election results so far. However, senior leaders of his party have acknowledged the defeat.
It has to be seen whether it will fuel a revolt against the chief minister as many in the party see his hasty decision to implement the Sabarimala verdict of the apex court as the key reason for the poll setback.
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