By reposing faith in the LDF, Kerala voters have sent a message to Congress and BJP too
The spectacular victory of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the Kerala Assembly election has put the spotlight on its lead author, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. His resolute leadership style and daring political experiments found resounding approval among the State’s electorate that re-elected an incumbent government for the first time in four decades. With this historic victory, Mr. Vijayan has further reinforced his already unassailable status as the supreme leader of the CPI(M) and the LDF. At 75, his challenge now will be to use his authority to transform the party so that its current dynamism outlasts his position in command. By replacing several old warhorses with fresh faces in the polls, he has already set the ball in motion. A transition in the CPI(M) — and the LDF — is under way and this will also be reflected in the choice of new Ministers. K.N. Balagopal, P. Rajeev and M.B. Rajesh could make the cut. Administrative challenges will be immense for the government, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic. The second successive defeat for the Congress and the United Democratic Front (UDF) is not a warning signal, but a marching order for its listless, self-serving leaders. The current crop of Congress leaders is out of touch with the evolving Malayali. Instead of exchanging chairs with one another, they must all go at once and pave the way for imaginative and inspiring leaders.
The BJP’s grand plans for Kerala have been dashed, and how. From 14.93% in 2016 to 12.47% this time, the BJP-led NDA vote share plummeted, but more notably, it got 4.29 lakh votes fewer. The BJP leaders are out of sync with Kerala, but the party’s slide is more because the people find its politics unacceptable. Centrist voters who considered the BJP as an option have been taken aback by its politics in Kerala and beyond. Some refreshing trends that run contrary to the national slant of BJP politics are evident. The new Kerala Assembly is a cross-section of the State’s religious diversity — with Hindu, Christian and Muslim communities finding representation in proportion to their populations. In terms of caste and gender this may not be true. A Hindu-majority constituency in Kerala chose a Muslim candidate (Congress) against the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face E. Sreedharan. The Indian Union Muslim League, a constituent of the UDF, saw its support shrinking, as the current generation of the community seeks new options. The CPI(M) has been relatively more successful in appreciating the myriad changes that are under way in Kerala and in responding to them. The Congress, which swept the Lok Sabha poll, will have opportunities to reinvent itself to pose a challenge to the Left in the Assembly election. But for the BJP, without a metamorphosis, Kerala will remain a nightmare, not a dream.