UDF makes a clean sweep in south

Front’s emphatic win signals a consolidation of minority votes in its favour

Riding on the crest of a high wave of anti-Central and State government sentiment, the United Democratic Front (UDF) surfed to victory in five Lok Sabha constituencies in south Kerala on Thursday.

The UDF win in Thiruvananthapuram, Attingal, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Mavelikara also stymied a total rightward shift in votes to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which presumed to reap dividends from the deeply polarising Sabarimala issue.

The front’s emphatic win in the south signalled a consolidation of minority votes in its favour in the face of the Sangh Parivar’s attempt to assault secular values and arbitrate on issues such as the consumption of beef, Babri Masjid, triple talaq Bill and the proposed Church Act.

It also indicated a general reluctance among voters hurt by the State government’s handling of the temple issue to bet entirely on the untested Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The UDF wins also suggested that a majority of voters had decided to stay the course with the Congress to express their grievances.

Notably, the UDF’s star candidate Shashi Tharoor trumped his nearest rival Kummanam Rajasekharan of the BJP by a positi ve 98,186 votes in Thiruvananthapuram. He bulldozed C. Divakaran of the LDF to the third position and upped his lead. The coastal and rural folk, enthused partly by the electoral presence of Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad, voted overwhelmingly in his favour.

Upending poll predictions, Anto Antony of the UDF won by 44,613 votes in the hotly contested Pathanamthitta constituency. The Parliamentary segment was the epicentre of the rancorous Sabarimala debate which pitted the government against the Congress and the BJP. Mr. Antony pushed Veena George, MLA, of the LDF and K. Surendran of the NDA to second and third place respectively.

In Kollam, N. K. Premachandran of the UDF won by a wide margin of 1,49,772 votes over his rival K.N. Balagopal of the CPI(M). Mr. Premachandran, who was personally vilified by the LDF for deserting it in 2014, leaned on his appeal and Parliamentary prowess to beat his rivals.

In Mavelikara, Kodikunnil Suresh of the Congress handily defeated Chittayam Gopakumar of the LDF by a lead of 61,500 votes. The NDA has claimed that is has improved its vote share in all the four constituencies.

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