The Congress-led UDF registered a massive victory in the high-profile three-way contest in Kerala, where the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF faced off against the UDF and the NDA. The state, which has been a traditional Left bastion, witnessed a tectonic shift, and ended up being a national embarrassment for the battered Left Democratic Front (LDF).
The UDF won in 19 out of 20 seats. The LDF managed to win only one seat, the Alappuzha constituency.
Kerala witnessed a high-decibel Lok Sabha campaign in the immediate aftermath of the Sabarimala issue, after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of women’s entry into the hill shrine. Meanwhile, the BJP seems to have failed to capitalise enough on the issue to win a seat. The extent of the impact of Sabarimala issue on the BJP’s performance, however, will reflect in their vote share.
A resounding defeat for the Left does not augur well for the ruling Left government in the state, led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
“People probably viewed the Congress as a national alternative to BJP, and that has significantly benefited the UDF. The Sabarimala issue has had an adverse effect on the LDF,” Dr Sajad Ibrahim, an expert in Kerala politics, observes.
“It should be noted that the Sabarimala issue worked in favour of the UDF and not the BJP. According to a survey we conducted, it was the Sabarimala factor that worked against the ruling Left government, although the people favoured Pinarayi Vijayan as their leader,” adds Dr Sajad, who is also the Head of Department, Political Science, University of Kerala.
In 2014, the UDF had won in 12 constituencies, with the Congress winning 8 seats, the IUML 2 seats, and Kerala Congress (M) and RSP one seat each.
The UDF has historically done better than the LDF in most Lok Sabha elections as people believe the CPI(M) is not a stakeholder at the national level. Every time the UDF has swept Kerala, a national factor has come into play. This time, however, a state issue like Sabarimala seems to have propelled the UDF's victory. Rahul Gandhi's candidature from Kerala had boosted the UDF front further.
Incidentally, in the elections held after the Emergency in 1977, the UDF won all 20 seats in the state. In the elections post Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991, the UDF had won 18 seats. In 2004, however, when the UPA came to power, Kerala voted against the national sentiment and the LDF won 18 seats.
The big wins
The Congress and its allies - Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) - won against the CPI(M) and its allies, even in some of the Left strongholds in north Kerala.
The Rahul Gandhi wave in Wayanad seems to have worked in UDF favour, as he comfotably won 7,06,367 votes, leading by over 4 lakh votes against CPI's PP Suneer.
Shashi Tharoor, the sitting Member of Parliament, will have a third term in the Lok Sabha, as he picked up 4,16,131 votes in Thiruvananthapuram. He won against BJP’s heavyweight, Kummanam Rajasekharan, by more than 90,000 votes.
Despite the outsider tag, Remya Haridas, Congress’s fresh face and Kerala's second Dalit MP, too, won Alathur constituency by a huge margin of 1,58,968 votes. She defeated the constituency's sitting MP, PK Biju of the CPI(M).
UDF ally, IUML's PK Kunhalikutty, will run for another term as he won 5,89,873 votes in Malappuram, leading by over two lakh votes against CPI(M)'s VP Sanu.
In Ernakulam, which saw three strong contenders, Congress’s Hibi Eden won, with CPI(M)’s P Rajeev in second place and BJP’s Alphons Kannanthanam coming third.
Pathanamthitta briefly saw BJP candidate and face of Sabarimala protests, K Surendran leading. But the sitting MP, Anto Antony of the UDF, quickly wrested the lead and won from the constituency.
While UDF's second woman candidate, Shanimol Osman was leading in Alappuzha during the early trends, CPI(M)'s AM Ariff took the lead and went on to win the seat, albeit a small margin of 10,474 votes. Noteably, Alappuzha is the only constituency that the CPI(M) has managed to win in the state.