CPM was hoping for double digit figures in Kerala.

 

New Delhi: The ruling Left Front in Kerala is fighting a three-pronged battle this Lok Sabha election. This is over and above taking on the Congress president, “Mauni Baba” Rahul Gandhi, who has “betrayed the comrades” by contesting from Wayanad and has vowed “not to speak a word against the CPM”.

Other than the usual rivals, the Congress-led UDF and the BJP-led NDA, the CPM in the state has declared an all-out war against poll surveys, almost all of which have predicted a near rout for the LDF. The party’s predicament is understandable, as Kerala is the only state where CPM was hoping against hope to bag double-digit figures.  It is that hope which is regularly being demolished by survey after survey. What is more alarming in the findings of most surveys is that erosion in CPM’s vote bank is likely to benefit the BJP more than the Congress.

In the past, the state had witnessed mostly a direct fight between the LDF and the UDF, the only exception being in Thiruvananthapuram in 2014, where the BJP came second. This time around it looks like at least in two more constituencies BJP may push CPM to the third position.

Most surveys say that while UDF is likely to retain its vote share, if not improve the same, the NDA’s share is likely to go up and LDF’s come down. According to the Manorama-Karvy opinion poll, the UDF tally can go up to 15 out of 20. It gives an edge to LDF only in three, meaning the rest two can go the BJP way.

Among the two, BJP has a “slight edge” in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram where the impact of the party’s “Save Sabarimala” campaign is felt mostly. However, voters in Pathanamthitta, the abode of Lord Ayyappa, or Thrissur, where the BJP was hoping to take advantage of the Sabarimala controversy, do not consider it as an important issue. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was the first to call the surveys a “bluff and far from reality”. He said these election surveys fail to bring out the correct perspective and claimed LDF will win at least 18 seats. Those who heard him carefully had no doubt as to who was close to reality.

In 2014 the LDF had got eight seats. That time also Vijayan had claimed that the Left would post a historic win. This time too Vijayan has claimed that the surveys “are just a vehicle to ensure that those who are down get a new lease of life, but never happens at all”. Pinarayi’s state party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan seems to have better ears to the ground when he said most of the LDF supporters are believers, giving a hint that CPM could still hope that they would support the party despite the government stance on Sabarimala.

It was clear that Kodiyeri had the surveys in mind when he said about believers as most of the surveys point that LDF will lag behind UDF and NDA in Pathanamthitta where Sabarimala is situated.

However, the party can take some solace as most of the surveys predict a fall in the vote percentage of NDA from the 2016 Assembly elections.

Also it looks like the gamble of BJP state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai’s call to grab the “golden opportunity” Sabarimala offered has not come off well.

According to the Manorama survey though an overwhelming 63% of the respondents said that women should not be allowed to enter Sabarimala, but the survey suggests that this sentiment may not transform into votes for the BJP.

It is most likely to go to UDF, an annoying factor for the ruling CPM which too had gambled on that particular share of vote when it went all out to make the entry of women into the temple a reality and then organised a women’s wall in the name of “second renaissance”.

All those efforts now seem futile. It only helped alienate upper caste Hindus from the Left.

In a way, BJP should thank Pinarayi Vijayan if and when they open an account in the Lok Sabha from the state. It may be just a touch and go case this time, but definitely not the same the next time around. Had Vijayan called an all-party meeting immediately after the Supreme Court judgement last September, instead of arbitrarily deciding to implement the judgement, the three-month old agitation over Sabarimala would never have happened. It singularly helped shoot up the popularity of BJP among a large section of non-committed women voters and as per the surveys even among Left supporters. But more than Sabarimala, it is the authoritarian style of functioning of Pinarayi Vijayan which seems to have alienated the party from a large section of voters.

Even hardcore CPM supporters admit that Pinarayi Vijayan is yet to graduate to the post of Chief Minister of the state. He still behaves as the state secretary of the CPM, antagonistic towards everyone opposing his party. The Oommen Chandy-led UDF may have had many pitfalls, but his was a government friendly to the people of the state. No wonder most of the surveys still show Oommen Chandy as the most popular leader in the state. Congress is betting on that.

 

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