Kerala may not have kicked its much-discussed habit of electing a new State government every five years, but it has certainly bucked the decadal trend of giving massive victories and humiliating defeats to the two rival formations. Thus it is that the Congress-led United Democratic Front has ascended power in the State with a slender margin of four seats on a vote share of 46.03 per cent.
At the UDF's 72 seats to the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front's 68, this is the closest election the State has witnessed in three decades. The vote shares show that the UDF has secured only a marginally higher number of votes as compared to its rival. The two alliances are separated by just 1,68,520 votes: the UDF secured 80,02,854 votes and the LDF 78,34,334 votes. At 45.06 per cent, the LDF's vote share is short of the UDF's share by less than 1 per cent.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which put up a strong showing in select constituencies but could not open its account in the Assembly, secured only 10,53,681 votes. Its vote share is 6.06 per cent. The other candidates in the fray were able to secure 4,96,782 votes (2.85 per cent).
The outcome has shocked the Congress and its allies more than their rivals because, after their impressive performances in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the local body elections held seven months ago, they were expecting to win big. The UDF won 16 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats, and over 55 per cent of the local self government institutions.
The one person who made a difference for the LDF was Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who took the battle to the UDF's terrain. Mr. Achuthanandan, who took the burden of the campaign on his shoulders with the track record of the LDF backing him, triggered a surge in favour of the LDF towards the final phase of the campaign. The outcome shows he was able not only to arouse the LDF cadres and supporters, but also win over a large number of unattached voters. The LDF's strong showing in the southern districts of Kollam, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta; central districts of Idukki and Thrissur, and the northern district of Kozhikode and to some extent Kasaragod, could be attributed to the way he attracted and enthused voters.
While Kozhikode, Kollam and Alappuzha stood strongly behind the LDF, the UDF drew strong backing from Malappuram, Wayanad, Ernakulam and Kottayam districts. The seven-party LDF may have lost because of the setbacks it suffered in Kannur and Palakkad, considered CPI(M) strongholds. That could well prove the subject of much introspection within the party and the LDF in the days to come. Surprisingly, the LDF has received support in traditional UDF strongholds such as Pathanamthitta and Idukki districts, and to some extent Thrissur.
In the nine-party UDF, the Indian Union Muslim League's performance was impressive. The party won 20 out of the 24 seats it contested, gaining from a consolidation of Muslim votes.
The Congress has had a strike rate of less than 50 per cent: it won only 38 of the 87 seats contested. It has no representation in Kollam, Idukki, Kozhikode and Kasaragod districts.
Two allies of the UDF failed to make it to the Assembly: the K.R. Gouri-led Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samiti (JSS) and the M.V. Raghavan-led Communist Marxist Party (CMP). In the LDF, two constituents drew a blank: the Congress (Secular) and the Kerala Congress (Anti Merger Group).