LDF paints south Kerala red

But NDA finds an oasis of saffron in Pandalam

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) has painted the southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Alappuzha red. Nevertheless, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) found an oasis of saffron in Pathanamthitta where it captured Pandalam, a municipality at the heart of the Sabarimala lore.

The Sangh Parivar politics centred around the tempestuous issue of entry of women into the Ayyappa temple bore fruit belatedly with voters rejecting the LDF and awarding the local body to the NDA, giving the BJP-led coalition a perch in the heartland of southern Kerala.

The LDF had forayed into the UDF bastions in Pathanamthitta, piggybacking largely on the Jose K. Mani faction of the Kerala Congress (M). The KC(M) has sizeable pockets of influence in the district, and it seemed to have tipped the scale in favour of the LDF. The ruling front won the 16-division district panchayat by a clear margin of 12 seats.

Strikingly, the UDF seat tally dipped sharply to four from 11 in 2015. It seems the anti-incumbency factor has benefitted the BJP more in Pathanamthitta than the Congress. It also appears that the LDF’s impressive performance in Kottayam district has extended to Pathanamthitta.

The LDF also surged in Alappuzha, which had sided with UDF in the past. However, the LDF always had a strong support base in the region, especially in the traditional coir and toddy sectors. The UDF seemed to have wilted in front of the LDF advance. Its showing was moderate compared to its 2015 electoral record.

The NDA benefitted from the UDF’s lacklustre performance at the hustings. It gained around 200 seats across local bodies in Alappuzha. The NDA’s upswing seemed to give credence to the theory that the anti-government sentiment among traditional UDF supporters had benefited the BJP alliance more than the Congress.

In Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, the UDF put up a weak fight. The capital saw a steep fall in the Congress vote share, prompting the CPI(M) to claim that a large portion of it fell in the BJP’s kitty.

In Kollam, the LDF staged an impressive comeback at the expense of the UDF. It captured the Kollam Corporation, district panchayat, three municipalities, most block and grama panchayats. The UDF’s loss appeared to have advantaged the BJP which made significant inroads into the district by winning six divisions.

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