Dr D Dhanuraj with Ananthitha Anandan

Today could be marked in the history of democratic Kerala as a decisive turning point.  As the 2.7 Crore voters of our State are expected to cast their vote today, what will be the outcome?  Will it be the same strategy of bringing the alternative coalition to power, or will it be giving a second term to the existing coalition, or will it be the emergence of a powerful third front? The unprecedentedly intense election campaign in the last few weeks with most of the national level leaders becoming a regular presence in Kerala has increased multifold, the unpredictability quotient of this State Assembly elections. Photo-finish results are expected in many constituencies.

Voter is the king; atleast for today, every voter gets this treatment from all political parties, as everyone is trying to woo the voters in every possible way, to get the results in their favour. However, what is in the mind of this diverse 2.7 Crore strong electorate of Kerala? What can be the factors influencing our electorate? Is it anti-incumbency or welfare schemes& freebies or new-gen factor or the expectation of a solid leadership or scams & corruption issues ? Here is a 10 point list of the most decisive factors for the Kerala Assembly Elections 2021.

  1. It is a reaction and response to the governance of the last four years. It is widely believed that Kerala government’s swift reaction in the times of Floods of 2018 and 2019 and COVID in 2020 was exemplary and the government deserves another term in the office. Many think that the ruling coalition could not get into many of their promises because of the harrowed adversaries they had to face year after year. So, the benefit of doubt could favour the ruling coalition.
  2. The welfare schemes including the pensions and the ration kits can have a significant role in this election.  There is a wide belief that these schemes are key to the present government’s success. How far the welfare schemes enthuse the voters to support the current government, especially those below 40 (age) vote category, need a closer examination.
  3. From the global to the national political narrative, there is an inclination towards solid leaderships. In this election, Kerala discusses leadership question and among the leaders, who is decisive and credible? One should not forget that five years ago, the same leaders’ story in the election posters and propaganda materials was different. More than the poster wars, the voters may have underlying insights in their leader selection.  
  4. The scams and corruption allegations are always factored into the decisions of the voters. These allegations at times lost their relevance on the political front and lacked ignition from those who raised these points. The opposition lost its plot with the local elections of 2020. Whether they are still in the voters’ minds as they are electing a state government is the million-dollar question here.  The question of corruption could be raised at the constituency level, and the voters could be very particular in choosing the candidate irrespective of the fronts they represent.
  5. The infrastructure development has been a bottleneck for Kerala’s growth. The voters are capable of assessing the delivery time and the importance of such projects. At the same time, developmental work such as renovation works of Government schools is conspicuously missing from the campaign.
  6. The emergence of the third front in Kerala has been unprecedented. Field visit shows an urge for an alternative (not necessarily, the third front in NDA) political force in Kerala. The votes for NDA, Twenty20, V for Kerala etc., could be detrimental to many constituencies’ election outcome.  Moreover, the triangular contest and the votes for BJP led NDA may bring a surprise element in terms of the percentages and their acceptance.
  7. Kerala has never re-elected a government giving them a second term. The discussion around continuity has taken centre stage in the campaign.  It depends on which front was able to send the right message across the voters in this debate. The same could be the case with the question on the individual seeking the continuity and the second term, and one has to wait and watch how the reaction from the within also.
  8. It is believed that the emergence of a third front will lead to the disintegration of the UDF. It complicates the arguments further. In Kerala, the religious minorities have a political power share and critical in the victory of any front. In recent years, LDF has attracted the minority votes to their kitties as well. Yet, the emergence of the post-election scenarios could play a significant role in the voters’ final decision. That would be critical for any consolidation favouring any of the fronts in the fray. However, it may not be a common element across the state.
  9. There have not been any insightful studies featuring first time voters and those of age below 30. In the twenty-first century, internet-savvy generations aspirations are not tested and assessed by the parties as they are still going by conventional wisdom.  That need not be a ground reality in many places. The same could be said about the Non-Resident Keralites who returned from the Gulf countries losing their jobs during the COVID times.
  10. If the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were all about the Sabarimala, the same zeal could not be sited this time around. Yet, the aggressive pitching of Sabarimala by BJP leaders and their reactions from the other parties have revived the plank, and it could be a spoilsport for a few.

Views expressed by the authors are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Featured Image Source: India Today

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