Wayanad to coastal areas, Congress can’t stop Pinarayi wave

The coalition, which bagged 19 out of 20 seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, ended with 41 seats in the 140-strong Assembly.

Bucking its tradition of voting out the ruling party every five years, Kerala chose to stay with the Left Democratic Front, rendering the Congress-led UDF an embarrassing defeat in the state.

The coalition, which bagged 19 out of 20 seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, ended with 41 seats in the 140-strong Assembly. The UDF show was mainly confined to central Kerala districts of Ernakulam and Kottayam, and ally IUML’s stronghold of Malappuram.

In fact, the Congress, the UDF’s leading party, fared the worst. Of the 93 seats it contested, fielding new and young faces in half of them, it could win only 21. In Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad Lok Sabha seat too, where he extensively campaigned, the UDF lost in three of the seven Assembly segments.

Congress state president Mullappally Ramachandran called the defeat unexpected. “There is nothing in the political situation in Kerala that justifies this verdict.”

In the southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, the Congress won only three out of 25 seats. Among the biggest shocks for the party was the defeat of V S Sivakumar from Thiruvananthapuram to minor LDF ally Janathipathya Kerala Congress’s Antony Raju. Congress young face and two-term legislator K S Sabarinathan lost to CPM local leader G Stephen, who had faced protests from within the party.

In Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala’s Alappuzha district, the Congress win was limited to his seat.

The Congress had expected a wave in its favour in coastal areas in southern districts as the fishermen community was angry with the LDF government over a deal with US firms for deep-sea fishing. The Catholic diocese of Alappuzha and Kollam had openly come out against the deal during the elections, leading the Congress to hope for gains in the 40-odd coastal constituencies in Kerala. However, that did not happen.

In North Kerala districts also, the Congress could not improve its tally. In Kozhikode district, the party could not win in a single seat.

The IUML on the other hand won 17 of the 27 seats it contested, retaining its hold on its bastion of Malappuram district. Last time, it had contested 23 seats and won 18.

The breakaway Kerala Congress led by P J Joseph won only two of the 10 seats it had contested.

Among the UDF leaders who lost were K M Shaji (IUML), V T Balram (Congress), Anil Akkara (Congress) and K S Sabarinathan (Congress).

The defeat is a second blow for the Congress after the local body elections in December, that the LDF had swept, and many party leaders admitted it was a do-or-die battle. After the December loss, the Congress had brought in former chief minister Oommen Chandy to the centrestage, making him the chairman of the election committee.

It had also this time selected names based on “winnability”, avoiding its usual pitfall of factional leaders pushing own leaders.

The party also hoped to have made an impact with the anomalies in electoral rolls alleged by Chennithala in the run-up to voting. The ruling CPM had maintained silence on the matter.

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