The babel of claims and counterclaims by the major political dispensations in the country has fallen silent. It has given way to the cacophony of pollsters finally allowed to air their exit poll survey findings. Almost all of them have called the result in favour of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). In sum, all the claims of the UPA, especially the Congress charge led by what many believed to be Rahul Gandhi 2.0, have been shred to pieces. Result: the NDA, particularly the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was at the receiving end of many trolls, seems set to have the last laugh.
In Kerala, the ridiculous claims of 20/20 sweep by both the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) have been given some perspective as most exit polls predict 14-16 seats for the former and 4-6 seats for the latter. Most exit polls are also putting their money on the NDA opening its account in Kerala, that too in the state capital, saying Kummanam Rajasekharan will pip Shashi Tharoor. This was always a fear for the Congress, one it has been wishing away since April 23. The only survey to queer the pitch is CNN News 18 predicting 11-13 seats for LDF, 7-9 for UDF and 0-1 for NDA.
Be that as it may, clearly, once again Kerala is out of sync with what is happening in the rest of the country. Both the UDF and the LDF had positioned themselves in this election as the only front capable of keeping the citadel of Kerala safe from the marauding troops of the BJP. If this was a narrative that stood the LDF in good stead during the 2016 Assembly polls, getting even the minorities to come under its protective umbrella, in 2019 the UDF has stolen that thunder.
Now, the jury will be out if it was the Sabarimala issue or the handling of the floods that went against the LDF. Or, whether it was a positive vote for the Congress and its allies as the Rahul offensive in Wayanad cascaded into a pro-UDF sentiment in the rest of the state. More likely than not, political pundits will conclude that it was a combination of all these factors.
Truth be told, the BJP did make deep inroads into Kerala this time. Once the results are out, we will get to see not only the voting percentage in the 20 LS seats but also how the NDA fared in the 140 assembly segments. And it will come to light how closely some of the BJP candidates ran their rivals from the other two fronts. It is bound to prove quite embarrassing for the big boys when BJP candidates finish second in a couple of constituencies.
The buzz now is that this was perhaps the most communally polarised elections Kerala has seen. It also cannot be wished away that the main political parties in Kerala have never been shy of seeking votes from various communities. The difference now is that things are done a bit more bluntly. There concerns now that this religious polarisation will escalate during the 2021 assembly polls.
For the BJP, it will now be a no-holds barred offensive to translate the progress it evidently made into a winning strategy in 2021. It may well turn to a new face to escalate this push. For the LDF, it will be all about going back to the drawing board to iron out the glitches and getting the public to once again believe they are the true saviours of a secular Kerala. And for the UDF and particularly the Congress, it will be a mixed bag as its seemingly major victory finds no resonance in the rest of the country, as has been found by dozens of pollsters.
Of course, all this is subject to the exit poll numbers bearing out on 23 May. And may be, it’s also time to do one last poll to find out what the people really think of the exit polls.
(Vinod Mathew is a senior journalist based in Kochi. Views expressed are personal.)