The Hindu CSDS-Lokniti Post-Poll Survey 2021

Kerala Assembly Elections | How the Left Front bucked a decades-old trend in Kerala

A jubilant CPI(M) worker in front of the party headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram on May 2, 2021.   | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

For almost four decades, power in Kerala has alternated between the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). If this practice had continued, the UDF should have been voted to power in the just-concluded elections. But the voters gave a clear mandate for a second term to the LDF. For the LDF this was a key success in the wider context of national politics in general and the future of the Left parties in particular. For the UDF, this election has given it a second term in the Opposition and has proven to be a setback for the Congress, which was hoping to find a pathway for national recovery. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led was hoping to emerge as an important third force, but it was left without a representative in the newly elected Assembly.

The LDF won a decisive mandate, clinching 99 seats and surpassing its tally in the previous House. It also saw an increase in its vote share compared to five years ago. The UDF won only 41 seats (a decline of six seats) but managed to retain more or less the same vote share that it had secured in the last Assembly elections (Table 1). The BJP-led alliance lost the one seat it had and only saw a marginal increase in its vote share. While the BJP’s vote share rose marginally, the vote share of its alliance partner, the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena, fell by 2.8%.

image/svg+xml Assessment of the work done by the Pinarayi government Improved Deteriorated Remained the same No Response Medical facilities in government hospitals 73 17 5 5 Condition of government schools 72 17 4 7 Condition of roads 66 22 8 3 Supply of electricity 65 27 5 3 Supply of drinking water 52 32 10 7 Public bus/public transportation services 51 32 11 6 Law and order situation 39 36 19 6 Condition of farmers 30 29 29 12 Job opportunities 29 33 29 9 Condition of the fshing community 25 28 25 22 Table 4: Work done by Pinarayi government Note: Figures are percentages and may not total 100 due to rounding | Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey in Kerala during the 2021 Assembly elections Party/ Coalition 2021 Assembly elections 2016 Assembly elections Seats won Vote share (%) Seats won Vote share (%) UDF 41 39.41 47 38.60 LDF 99 45.28 92 42.58 NDA - 12.40 1 14.62 Others - 2.91 - 4.2 Table 1: Performance of various alliances/ parties Table 2: Performance of the State government Table 3: Advantage LDF Satisfaction with the work done by the: Fully satisfed Somewhat satisfed Somewhat dissatisfed Fully dissat - isfed Present LDF government 38 35 8 15 Previous UDF government 22 37 10 28 Note: Figures are percentages; the rest of the respondents did not answer the question | Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll surveys in Kerala during the 2021 and 2016 Assembly elections Note: Figures are percentages; the rest of the respondents did not answer the question Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey in Kerala during the 2021 Assembly elections Which government is better? (%) Present LDF government 45 Previous UDF government 28 Both are equally good 10 Both are equally bad 9
 

A second chance

In the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, when asked whether the LDF should get another term, 51% of the respondents categorically stated that it should, 27% were of the view that it should not, and 22% did not respond to the question. Five years ago, the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey showed that 49% did not favour a second term for the incumbent UDF government and only 42% supported a second term for the sitting UDF.

The post-poll data clearly indicate that the second term for the LDF was a by-product of the public perception that the Chief Minister and the government had done a reasonably good job. Three-fourths of the respondents (73%) expressed satisfaction with the work done by the government. This was much higher than the satisfaction levels with the UDF government five years ago (59%). The net satisfaction (those fully satisfied minus those fully dissatisfied) with the LDF government was 23% as opposed to -6% in the case of the UDF government in 2016 (Table 2).

In a separate question, voters were asked to compare the present LDF government with the previous UDF government. Close to half the respondents (45%) rated the LDF government better, whereas only three of every 10 respondents (28%) rated the UDF government as better. Two of every 10 felt that both were equally good or bad (Table 3).

The data further reveal that the respondents rated the LDF government high on most parameters (Table 4).

image/svg+xml Assessment of the work done by the Pinarayi government Improved Deteriorated Remained the same No Response Medical facilities in government hospitals 73 17 5 5 Condition of government schools 72 17 4 7 Condition of roads 66 22 8 3 Supply of electricity 65 27 5 3 Supply of drinking water 52 32 10 7 Public bus/public transportation services 51 32 11 6 Law and order situation 39 36 19 6 Condition of farmers 30 29 29 12 Job opportunities 29 33 29 9 Condition of the fshing community 25 28 25 22 Table 4: Work done by Pinarayi government Note: Figures are percentages and may not total 100 due to rounding | Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey in Kerala during the 2021 Assembly elections
 

Pinarayi’s popularity

In his five-year tenure, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to face two floods as well as the Nipah outbreak and the COVID-19 pandemic. The welfare schemes launched by his government to give relief to the people during the national lockdown also appeared to bring the ruling alliance closer to the people. All but 6% of the respondents claimed to have benefited from the free food kits distributed by the government.

Due to his government’s work, Mr. Vijayan remained extremely popular and he was the preferred chief ministerial choice for 36% of the respondents. Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy secured a distant second place with the support of 18%. No other leader in the State was able to secure even 5% of the total support for the chief ministerial candidate. State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja was placed third, with 3% supporting her. The Opposition leader, Ramesh Chennithala, was the choice for 3% of the respondents. The BJP’s move of roping in E. Sreedharan, the ‘Metro man’, did not work well; he was a choice for only 2% of the voters.

The Opposition parties had mounted an attack on the CPI(M)-led Left government for the various scams that had taken place during its time in power. However, there is little evidence of any negative impact of these scams on voting preferences. People’s awareness about these scams seemed to be low. Given the literacy rates in Kerala and the high level of public awareness in general, the fact that a huge proportion of voters had either not heard of the scams or did not know whether the accusations were correct or not (41%-51%) is indicative of the limited impact of these accusations (Table 5). The data show that the Left was the preferred vote choice for many of these voters as well. The scams failed to negatively impact the LDF and the people focused more on welfare schemes such as free food kits and other measures. Corruption and scams was an election issue for a mere 2% of the voters.

image/svg+xml Table 5: Scams Note: Figures are percentages and may not total 100 due to rounding. | Source: Lokniti-CSDS Post Poll Survey in Kerala during the 2021 assembly elections Corruption and impropriety accusations Genuine False Not sure/Not heard of this/No response Charges against KIIFB ofcials of violating the Foreign Exchange Act 28 22 50 Charges against Pinarayi in the gold smuggling-foreign currency case 32 27 41 Charges against LDF ministers in the gold smuggling-foreign currency case 34 24 43 Charges of kickbacks to employees of the LIFE Mission housing scheme 32 21 47 Charges of compromising COVID-19 patient’s privacy in deal with U.S. frm Sprinklr 30 20 50 Charges of non-transparency in the deep sea fshing deal with a U.S. frm 29 20 51
 

Party or candidate?

Given the traditional rivalry between the LDF and UDF and the entry of the BJP as a third force, it was interesting to observe whether the party or candidate was more critical in defining electoral choice. Six of every 10 respondents (61%) said that they voted on the basis of party, while three in every 10 (29%) said they voted on the basis of the candidate.

Mr. Vijayan was seen asking people to vote for the Left in the name of development. When people were asked what was the main voting issue in these elections, development emerged as the biggest issue. Development was also the biggest issue in 2016, with a much larger proportion of voters saying it was a issue for them back then (17%). Though the BJP tried hard, it failed to capitalise on the Sabarimala issue; this was a crucial factor for a mere 1% of the people. Surprisingly, close to seven of every 10 voters did not respond to the question on what constituted the biggest issue for them.

The Left also had an edge among first-time voters and the poor. In fact, the biggest issue reported by the first-time voters was not development but the government’s performance in the State. On the caste front, though the LDF lost some of its Nair votes (as compared to 2016), possibly due to how the government handled the Sabarimala issue, it gained votes in the Ezhava community (53% of their vote). The election saw an increase in support for the LDF among both Muslims and Christians.

In terms of reaching out to people during the election campaign, the data show that six in every 10 voters reported being approached by all the three alliances, which is a clear testimony that all the parties were making sure that no stone was left unturned in terms of campaigning and visibility. However, among those who were approached by all the three alliances, the LDF clearly had an advantage as 44% voted for the party, 37% voted for the UDF and 16% for the National Democratic Alliance.

The LDF’s victory is a strong endorsement of the performance of its government and leadership. The UDF was not able to present a chief ministerial face and the BJP failed to move beyond the margins in what continues to be an intense two alliance competition.

K.M. Sajad Ibrahim is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kerala; R. Girish Kumar is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kerala; Vibha Attri is Research Associate, Lokniti-CSDS; and Sandeep Shastri is Vice Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University Bhopal and the National Co-ordinator of the Lokniti network


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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 11:25:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/kerala-assembly/how-the-left-front-bucked-a-decades-old-trend-in-kerala/article34502739.ece

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