Drastic dip in UDF Vote share paves way to historic win for LDF

Kochi, May 24: The Left Democratic Front (LDF) victory in the 2016 assembly elections marks a historical turning point in the political trajectory of the state. This is because the elections, maidenly, upset the finely balanced electoral base of the ruling and opposition fronts which has ensured that the disparity in votes between the two major contenders has been minimal at a percentage point or two.

Thus we find that in the last assembly elections held in 2011 the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) polled 79.8 lakh votes while the Left Democratic Front (LDF) came a close second garnering as much as 77.7 lakh votes. The BJP, was a distant third with the party managing to secure just 10.6 lakh votes. So while the UDF which formed the government secured 45.7 per cent of the votes as compared to the 44.5 per cent gained by the LDF and its backers the BJP lagged far behind securing just 6.1 per cent of the votes polled in the 2011 assembly elections.

However, the 2016 assembly elections have heavily titled the scales for the three different fronts. While the overall polling in the assembly elections went up by almost 26 lakh votes from 1.74 crore votes in 2011 to 2 crore votes in 2016 the gains made by the three fronts varied substantially. Surprisingly the highest gains were made by the NDA and the LDF while the absolute number of votes pooled by the UDF even declined marginally.

In the case of the NDA the voted polled went up by a substantial 19.6 lakh (when compared to the votes polled by the BJP in 2011) which almost trebled the total votes polled by the NDA from 10.6 lakh in 2011 to 30.2 lakh in 2016. THE LDF also registered a commendable performance with its votes going up by 9.5 lakh and taking its total votes from 77.7 lakh in 2011 to 87.2 lakh in 2016. The only major loser was the UDF which saw its votes declining by 1.6 lakh taking down its total votes polled from 79.8 lakhs in 2011 to 78.1 lakh in 2016.

Consequently while the share of the votes polled by the NDA/BJP soared up from 6.1% in 2011 to 15% in 2016 the other two fronts registered a fall in their vote share. While the votes polled by the LDF went down only marginally from 44.5% in 2011 to 43.4% in 2016, a decline of around one percentage point, that of the UDF fell sharply from 45.7% to 38.8%, a decline of 7 percentage points. Thus we find that almost all the gains made by the NDA/BJP front in the just concluded Kerala assembly elections were accounted by the losses made by the LDF and UDF with the latter accounting for the most substantial part.

Numbers show that the UDF lost votes in 9 of the 14 districts with the largest losses in the districts of Trissur and Alappuzha. In contrast the votes pooled by the LDF increased in 12 of the 14 districts with the fall in votes restricted to the two districts of Idukki and Kottayam. The largest gains in the LDF votes were in the districts Ernakulam, Malapuram and Kasargod where its total votes increased between 1-2.5 lakh.

However, these gains of the LDF were miniscule when compared to that of the NDA/BJP, which gained in all the 14 districts. Their highest gains were in Trivandrum in southern Kerala and in Trichur in central Kerala where the front gained 2.9 lakh and 2.6 lakh votes respectively. The NDA also made gains between 1-2 lakh votes in another seven districts which included Alleppey, Palghat, Ernakulam, Quilon, Kottayam, Kozhikode and Pathanamthitta. The NDA/BJP gains were minimal at less than a lakh in the northern districts of Wayanad, Kasargod, Kannur, and Malapuram and also in Idukki.

The big question now is will the LDF and UDF be now able to restrain the surge in NDA/BJP votes in the coming years after they have touched such critical levels . The scenario is not too optimistic. With the LDF firmly resisting the NDA efforts to make inroads into its vote base it is likely to emerge as the main rallying point of the secular voters. But the receding prospects of the Congress will also ensure a large scale migration of conservative and anti-left voters to the BJP rungs especially since the credentials of the UDF has taken a bad hit in the jut concluded polls. Such a process may help the LDF make some immediate gains.

But it is going to be a tricky affair in the long run as the communal forces will make every attempt to polarise the voters across religious lines and cut down the voter base of its rivals. This is a challenge that both the CPM and the Congress will have to confront in the coming years.

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