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Kerala Election 2021: State where power swings between LDF and UDF, can Pinarayi Vijayan break the pattern?

Kerala Assembly Elections 2021: The power corridors of Thiruvananthapuram have witnessed a change in government every five years since the early 1980s. Will the pattern hold?

March 24, 2021 / 12:58 PM IST
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (File image: Twitter/@vijayanpinarayi)

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (File image: Twitter/@vijayanpinarayi)

Voters in Kerala will head for polling in a single phase on April 6 to elect a new 140-member Legislative Assembly or Niyamasabha. With just a few days to go for the crucial state polls, the election campaign and canvassing is in full swing.

One of the most striking features of assembly elections in Kerala over the years has been how they have led to a change of guard in the state every time.

The state has two dominant political fronts – the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Indian National Congress and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) piloted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

These two alliances have dominated Kerala’s political sphere since 1979 when the 50-day Indian Union Muslim League (United Front) government lost power. The United Front government led by CH Mohammed Koya was the last non-LDF and non-UDF administration the state has seen.

However, what is more, striking is that voters have chosen LDF and UDF in alternate elections. Thus, the power corridors of Thiruvananthapuram have witnessed a change of guard every five years since at least the early 1980s.

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Read: Opinion | The curious case on inner-party democracy in Kerala

A similar phenomenon was witnessed in neighboring Tamil Nadu between 1991 and 2016 when the pattern broke upon then chief minister J Jayalalithaa-led All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’s re-election. Rajasthan has also seen power swing between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress since 1993.

Kerala Assembly Election 2021 Kerala Assembly Election 2021

Yet, instances of the state government’s control swinging between two political forces every five years remain rare. It looks even more striking when the situation is compared with Odisha, Gujarat where the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the BJP have been in power uninterrupted for 21 and 23 years, respectively.

Pawan Kumar Chamling's Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) was in power for 24 years between 1994 and 2019. The Left Front government in West Bengal was in power for 34 years from 1977 to 2011.

As Kerala heads for polls once again, the question on everyone’s mind is: will we see voters pick the opposition again, or will Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF manage to break the pattern?

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On its part, the BJP – which has not had a large presence in the state so far – has expressed confidence that the pattern will break. The party has been claiming that voters in Kerala are looking for a change and would vote for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The saffron alliance’s vote share in the 2016 assembly polls and the 2019 general election was 14.96 percent and 15.64 percent, respectively. While the vote share had not translated into enough seats then, the BJP is hoping to build on this core base.

Opinion polls conducted weeks before polling suggest that the LDF holds a slight edge. According to the Mathrubhumi News–CVoter survey result released on March 19, the Left is predicted to win 75–83 seats. The majority mark is 71. While the Congress-led alliance is predicted to win 56–64 seats, the BJP may win between 0-2 seats.

Read | Explained: The Congress 'I' and the Congress 'A' of Kerala that made PC Chacko step down

However, it is to be noted that opinion polls and similar survey exercises have gone wrong in the past. Even political parties are being cautious. CM Vijayan on March 22 urged the party cadre not to be overconfident in the wake of pre-poll surveys.

"Various survey reports have come now...The election is a political game...So what I would like to request to the Left party workers that do not be complacent and show any laxity in campaign works in the wake of these survey reports," Vijayan told reporters in Kottayam.

Click here for Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the 2021 Assembly elections
Moneycontrol News
first published: Mar 24, 2021 12:58 pm

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