Kerala Assembly Elections 2011:
Kerala Nearly Broke the Tradition of Revolving Coalitions
The incumbent government and the ruling coalition throwing up an effective challenge to the opposition of the day, by securing 68 against 72, is something unheard of in the electoral history of past four decades in Kerala. Kerala seemed almost ready to break the established tradition of alternating rule.
The credit for the improved show of the LDF – the LDF was routed in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and also quite emphatically in the panchayat elections held in 2010 – is widely attributed to the octogenarian and outspoken CPI(M) leader VS Achuthanandan. There is certainly an element of truth in it, but Achuthanandan perhaps could strike such a chord because of the overwhelming anti-corruption mood of the people. His tirade against corruption and promises to send many more UDF leaders to jail really captured the imagination of the people. It should be noted that a prominent UDF leader, Balakrishna Pillai of the Kerala Congress (B), was recently sent to jail by a court verdict and Achuthanandan’s intervention was considered crucial in the case. Achuthanandan’s clean and honest image also provided the necessary momentum and credibility to his anti-corruption agenda.
The Achuthanandan-led campaign also successfully highlighted several other issues related to the downtrodden and marginalized sections, the most prominent being the issue of sexual exploitation of women. In spite of being a progressive state in so many respects, Kerala has intriguingly always been rather retrograde on women’s question. No political party in Kerala ever seriously addressed the issue. The good old Ice Cream Parlour sex racket case involving one of the prominent leaders of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Kunhalikutty, became a major talking point in the Kerala elections with Achuthanandan ordering fresh investigation into the case based on some new revelations concerning the involvement of Kunhalikutty.
Equally importantly, Achuthanandan could strike a chord with the people because of his image as a martyr and a victim inside CPI(M). The Kerala people were more sympathetic towards Achuthanandan against the party officialdom headed by the State CPI(M) Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and overseen by the politburo. Interestingly, Achuthanandan was seen more as an opposition leader in spite of being a Chief Minister.
Finally, calculated periodic utterances of Achuthanandan against Muslim fundamentalism and the so-called Muslim conspiracy of turning Kerala into a Muslim-majority state etc. are believed to have yielded the benefit of a degree of Hindu consolidation in favour of the CPI(M). Even in the course of his election campaign, Achuthanandan dropped loaded communal hints, warning the people that a UDF victory would mean Kerala having a Christian Chief Minister (Oommen Chandy) with a Muslim Deputy (Kunhalikutty). With the CPI(M) thus stealing the Hindu edge in Kerala, no wonder in spite of its best attempts and a growing network in the state, the BJP once again failed to open its account. But this also resulted in greater alienation of both Muslim and Christian communities from the CPI(M) and this in the end sealed the fate of the LDF. The degree of alienation and resultant consolidation of Muslim and Christian electorate can be gauged from the fact that the Indian Union Muslim League succeeded in winning 20 out of the 24 seats it contested while the United Kerala Congress (Mani) managed to win 9 out of the 15 seats it contested. By contrast, the Congress could win only 38 out of 82 while the CPI(M) won 45 out of 84.