Kerala had earned a lot of goodwill in the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a strong health care system and prior experience in containing an epidemic (the Nipah virus of 2018), the state brought into force its pandemic response model, and saw success in the first half of 2020. So successful was the Kerala model that, when Delhi recorded 93 deaths on June 16, and Tamil Nadu crossed the 2000-cases per day mark on June 17, 2020, Kerala reported just 75 cases and one death.
But come August 2020, the pandemic got the better of the LDF government's containment efforts. With rising daily caseloads, experts said that Kerala was witnessing a peak in its transmission, and that it will dip eventually. But the months that followed saw no abatement, and by the end of January 2021, Kerala reported over 70,000 active coronavirus cases, prompting the Union government to send an expert team to the state to weigh the situation.
With Kerala heading to Assembly polls on April 6, the LDF government's performance during COVID-19 has become an important poll issue. Did the state's persistently high COVID-19 caseload negate the goodwill earned by it initially? Will this influence voter behaviour? TNM accessed opinion surveys which addressed this subject.
According to a survey conducted by Manorama and the VMR group, 64% of voters had a positive response to the LDF government's COVID-19 control measures. The survey was done on 27,000 voters across 140 constituencies between February and March 15. While 25% rated the state government's performance as 'very good', 39% gave it 'good', 28% 'average', 6% 'bad' and 2% said it was 'very bad'.
Manorama also did a constituency wise breakdown of voter responses and a similar pattern was seen in Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Ernakulam, which were among the worst hit districts.
The Media One Politique Marquer survey which asked voters 'What do you think of the state government and Chief Minister's performance during COVID-19' also received a positive response from 66% of those surveyed. The survey was done between March 18 and 22 with a sample size of 14,854 voter.
While 22% gave the state governmentâs performance an 'excellent' rating, 44% of the people surveyed rated it 'good'. Only 6% of the people rated it âpoorâ, while 28% rated it average.
They survey further analysed voter responses from North, Central and South Kerala.
Popularity of free food kits
Perhaps the biggest winner for the Pinarayi-led LDF government during the pandemic was its free food kit scheme, which continues till date. After the lockdown was imposed in March 2020, the government distributed food kits to all ration card holders in the state for free, to ensure that daily wagers do not starve due to lack of work.
Over 87 lakh families in the state were given the food kits which have essential grocery items required by one family for one month, according to CM Pinarayi Vijayan. The government began distributing these kits on April 10, 2020 and on the first day itself, managed to distribute 47,000 food kits. The kit has 17 items including rice, pulses, masalas, oil and soaps.
"While the kits are available to all ration card holders, the poor were the ones who really benefited from the initiative. People didnât have to go asking for help because of the kit. The quality of the contents of the kit is also very impressive," Thankachan, a daily wage worker from Pathanamthitta, had told TNM.