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Updated: May 18, 2014 13:32 IST

How the Christian heartland voted

George Jacob
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LDF fielded 4 Independents, wrested 3 seats from UDF

The voting pattern in the six Lok Sabha constituencies in Central Kerala, viz. Thrissur, Chalakudy, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Idukki, and Pathanamthitta, generally termed the Christian heartland, has always been watched with interest. Changes in the voting pattern in the 42 Assembly constituencies here have decided the political fortunes of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). As such, this belt has always been a crucible for political experimentation for the Left parties as part of their attempt to widen their support base.

This time, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) fielded four Independents, all of them Christians — actor Innocent in Chalakudy, bureaucrat Christie Fernandez in Ernakulam, Congress leader Peelipose Thomas in Pathanamthitta, and activist Joice George in Idukki, and came out with a split verdict, bagging three seats from the UDF.

LDF experiment

The LDF’s experiment of entering the Christian heartland via Independents appears to be a strategy to offset the near total disconnect the coalition had experienced after the exit of the P.J. Joseph-led Kerala Congress (J) more than three years ago. Interestingly, even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chose to field a Christian candidate in Kottayam, but with little impact.

Anti-incumbency

While the LDF could wrest three seats, Congress leaders believe that this was not a case of any change in the traditional voting pattern, but that dictated by hard political reasons. The setback in Thrissur and Chalakudy could be attributed to the anti-incumbency factor that plagued P.C. Chacko and the resultant bad blood it generated in the party.

However, the story is much different in Idukki where the Left just ‘adopted’ a candidate selected by the Catholic Church that has been spearheading the anti-Kasturirangan panel report campaign and reaped the benefits in this UDF bastion, skilfully making use of the rift within the Kerala Congress (M) and the Congress.

In Pathanamthitta, the LDF experiment has been a mixed bag. While it brought down the UDF margin, it also lost a good number of votes to the BJP which had played a key role in the anti-airport agitation.

Kottayam and Ernakulam stood with the UDF.

While the UDF has a lesson to learn from the success of the LDF in accessing the other’s bastion through new experiments, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s critics allege that the Left has not been able to make a lasting influence on this vote bank; it was just trying to fit into the established voting pattern of the region.

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