UNITY IN DIVERSITY: ANALYSING COMMUNAL VOTING PATTERNS IN GOD’S OWN COUNTRY - The Daily Guardian
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UNITY IN DIVERSITY: ANALYSING COMMUNAL VOTING PATTERNS IN GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

Shesh Narayan Singh

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Politics in Kerala have churned out governments alternating between the Left Front LDF and the Congress-led UDF every five years since the re-election of late Chief Minister C. Achutha Menon. Although the state has strong communal and caste lines, its community voting patterns have not been loyal to any particular party or front. Votes of all the four major communities—Nair, Ezhava, Muslims and Christians—are divided between the two major alliance groups: The Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

The fight in the state, which went to polls in one phase on 6 April, saw a turnout of roughly 69% (till 5 pm).

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is leading the incumbent Left Front government and was commended for leading the state in a period of flood crisis and successfully handing the initial few weeks of the COVID pandemic is now facing some anti-incumbency and is fighting to retain power in the state.

The other main alliance, the Congress-led UDF is being steered by Rahul Gandhi who won the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in 2019. In his attempt to turn around the fortunes of the Congress in the state and the country by winning back Kerala, he is targeting Congress’ traditional minority vote bank. His efforts to retain the Nair upper caste votes are by lining his campaign with temple visits as he did on the last day of campaigning when he visited the Thirunelli temple in Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency.

The BJP, which has a bleak presence in the state and managed to win only one seat in the 2016 Assembly election, is vying for the Hindu caste votes and the Christian votes through anti-Muslim sentiment. Its main target is the Nair community which has often shown equal support for both the LDF and the UDF. The recent conflict between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Church in Kerala also gave an opportunity to the BJP to break away Congress’ traditional minority votes in its own favour. The votes have been cast and it remains to be seen if the LDF will make history by retaining power in the state or if the UDF manages to wrestle it back. The extent of the impact of BJP’s communal politics in the state on LDF and UDF’s vote bank will also be clear when the results come out on 2 May.

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KERALA ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS 2021: THE TUSSLE OF COMMUNITY VOTE-BANKS

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Voting for the Assembly Election in Kerala was held in one phase on April 6. The election was a two-pronged contest between the incumbent Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Traditionally, the state has never had the same government re-elected to power for two terms, and all eyes are on the incumbent LDF to see whether they will be able to break this pattern. In Kerala, unlike other states, the support of communities doesn’t always lean towards one party or alliance. Both the LDF and UDF have been able to secure votes across communities over the years, and in the past few years, the support of communities has shifted from one alliance to another. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, in the state has relied mostly on votes of the Hindu community and to a small extent on the Christians. Let us explore more about the 4 most dominant communities in the state: Nair, Ezvaha, Christians, and Muslims to find out how support from these communities has shifted over the years and attempt to answer the question: who will they support in 2021?

NAIR COMMUNITY: SHIFT IN VOTING PATTERNS

Nair Hindus constitute roughly 15% of the population in Kerala and are dominant in Kollam, Kannur, Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta districts. As per the analysis of National and State Election Studies conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), in the past 3 Assembly elections, the incumbent LDF has secured around 40-45% of Nair votes.

This figure drastically reduced to around 20% in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Many analysts and experts attributed this sudden decline in support from the Nair community to the decision of the state government to implement the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups entry into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. The UDF on the other hand had only managed to secure 20% of the votes of the Nair community in the 2016 Assembly elections, which was a considerable decline from 2011, where the UDF managed to secure around 43% of the votes. However, in 2019 during the Lok Sabha elections, the UDF managed to increase their vote share of the community to around 35%.

As per psychologists and election analysts, the vote share of the Nair community migrated mainly from the UDF to the BJP. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had only managed to secure 33% of the votes of the Nair community in 2016 and managed to increase this to 43% in 2019 during the Lok Sabha elections. This is a dramatic increase from the past few elections when only 11% of Nair community members voted from the BJP (2006 and 2011).

Many have attributed this shift of the votes from the upper-class Nair community to the Modi Factor. The previous Assembly and Lok Sabha election both showcase that the BJP has benefitted from a shift in votes of the Nair community and as per experts is likely to happen in 2021 again.

EZHAVA COMMUNITY IN KERALAPhotograph by Creative CommonsPhotograph by Live.StaticFlikr

Another dominant Hindu community in the state is the Ezhava community, which constitutes roughly 21.6% of the population. Ezhava community members have traditionally majorly voted for the LDF, which managed to secure around 64-65% of votes from the community in both 2006 and 2011 elections. However, this drastically fell to around 49% in 2016. The UDF, on the other hand, managed to secure around 26% of the votes from the community in the 2011 elections, and this improved slightly to 28% in 2016. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Ezhava community’s support for the UDF remained unchanged at 28%.

Once again, as in the case of the Nair community, the BJP, which only managed to secure 6-7% of the votes of the Ezhava community in both 2006 and 2011 elections managed to increase this to 17% in 2016. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, this number increased again, although only slightly to around 21%. As per the analysis of electoral trends conducted by the CSDS, the BJP used the narrative of ‘minority appeasement’ by the UDF to consolidate Hindu votes from Nair, Ezhava, Brahmin and SC communities. Another reason for the surge in Ezhava community votes towards the BJP could also be attributed to the work of its alliance partner Bharat Dharma Jana Sena which was established in 2015.

MUSLIMS IN KERALA: WHO WILL THEY SUPPORT?

Muslims in Kerala constitute roughly 26% of the population in the state. Traditionally, the Indian Union of Muslim League (IUML) has been influential in the Kozhikode, Malappuram, and Kasaragod districts of Kerala, where Muslim populations dominate. The IUML has been an alliance partner of the UDF for more than 40 years. The UDF managed to secure 65% of the votes from the Muslim community during the 2011 elections. This figure fell to 58% during the 2016 Assembly polls and increased back to 65% during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the past 3 assembly elections, the LDF has been able to secure roughly 30-39% of the votes from the community.

This shift in Muslim voting trends during the 2019 LS elections occurred mainly owing to Rahul Gandhi’s rising prominence in the state. Congress-led UDF managed to even sweep out left citadels in Malabar, a result of the consolidation of Muslim votes in these areas. However, as per election analysts there seem to be no signs of a similar consolidation of Muslim votes in the ongoing assembly elections. Both the Rahul Gandhi and IUML factors which have helped the UDF secure minority votes in previous elections seem to be dimming out this time around. Another major factor behind this could be Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government’s strong stand against the Citizenship Amendment Act thereby having a positive impact on the minority population.

THE CHRISTIAN VOTE IN KERALA

Christians form roughly 18.4% of the 3.34 crore population of Kerala. While Catholics comprise the majority of the Christian population in the state, both Jacobite and Orthodox sects are also a small but influential part of the Christian vote. The community which is dominant in 33 seats could affect results in constituencies across Ernakulam, Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts. While traditionally Christians have supported the Congress, the past few years have seen attempts from both the incumbent LDF and the BJP to woo the community. Both the CPI(M) and BJP have been pushing for the narrative that the UDF is controlled by their alliance with the IUML in an attempt to influence Christian votes away from the UDF.

The UDF managed to secure 67% of the votes of the Christian community in the 2011 polls, however, this slipped to 51% during the 2016 Assembly polls. However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the UDF managed to increase its vote share in the Christian community again, securing 70% of the votes. The LDF, on the other hand, managed to decrease its vote share from the Christian community from 35% during the 2016 Assembly polls to only 25% during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Another major factor that is likely to affect the vote of the Christian community in the state is the 2017 Supreme Court verdict which resulted in the control of several Jacobite churches in the state being handed over to the rival Orthodox faction. There have been widespread protests across the state by the Jacobite community who are concerned about the loss of their churches as a result of the implementation of the verdict.

The results of the 2021 Assembly elections will also show the impact of the split of the Kerala Congress (M), which is the largest Christian party in the state. For over 40 years, the KC(M) had been an ally of the INC-led UDF. However, the party’s official faction, led by the son of the party’s late Chairman, KM Mani has switched its alliance to the CPI(M)-led LDF. In fact, despite protests by party cadres, the CPI(M) has decided to give 13 seats to the KC(M), and is fielding candidates from the KC(M) from its strongholds such as Ranni in Pathanamthitta.

On the other hand, the rival KC(M) faction led by PJ Joseph has joined hands in alliance with UDF. While analysts expect the rival faction to secure 9-10 seats in Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts, the true impact of the split will only be visible once the results are out.

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TRACING THE HISTORY OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN WEST BENGAL

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NEW DELHI: West Bengal has had a long and complicated relationship with electoral violence. While elections are simultaneously held in five states and Union Territories, if one scans media coverage, it would appear as though elections are only being held in West Bengal. Why is this? Why are all eyes on West Bengal? Since before the BJP’s rise to power during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the rivalry between the TMC and BJP led to significant poll-related violence across the state. Prior to this, the TMC shared a similar rivalry with the Left Front and before that, the Left shared one with the Indian National Congress (INC).

Photograph by Creative CommonsPhotograph by Creative CommonsPhotograph by Creative CommonsPhotograph by Jhelumchowdhury

The violence tends to peak during election season, with the major players changing over the years. During the 1960s and 1970s, the violence was mostly between the Indian National Congress (INC), the Left Front (an alliance of Left parties that was in power in the state for over three decades), and Naxalites. However, after the TMC’s rise to power, the strife shifted to TMC and CPI(M). In recent years, the fight has been between the BJP and TMC.

One of the most infamous elections in the history of West Bengal was the 2018 panchayat elections. The ruling TMC won the election with a comfortable margin. However, they were accused of stealing ballot boxes, stamping ballot papers, and winning over 34 per cent of the seats without any competition, which is also the same as area capture. The highest number of uncontested seats were in Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Bankura, Purba Bardhaman, Paschim Bardhaman, and Birbhum districts. More than half of all election-related violent events during the time also took place in these districts.

Different phases of the panchayat elections were marred with high levels of violence. Even before voting started for the elections, during the filing of nominations, 10 times as many events of violence and twice as many fatalities were reported as compared to prior weeks. Due to ongoing reports of violence, threats, and intimidation against opposition parties and their supporters, the deadline was extended to April 23rd 2018.

Of all the violent events, most were instances of vicious attacks on civilians (including assault and murder), rioting, and armed battles between party members. What is also important to note is that despite such high levels of violence, only about 4 per cent of all reported instances had any form of police intervention.

As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on past Lok Sabha and state elections and annual records, poll-violence and elections in West Bengal go hand-in-hand. During the 2003 panchayat elections, 76 people died (across political parties). Similarly, the 2013 panchayat elections also led to the death of 39 people, while in the 2018 elections, 29 political party members were killed.In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, out of the total 5,315 poll-time offences registered in India, 18 per cent were in West Bengal. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, of the 16 political workers killed across India in poll-related violence, 44 per cent of them were in West Bengal. In a similar manner, data for 2019 also shows that of the 2,008 political workers who were injured, 1,298 (that is 64 per cent) were in West Bengal.

Another factor that is interesting to note is that while in most states across the country, electoral violence is recorded mostly before and on the day of polling, in West Bengal more instances of violence are observed in the period after polls are held. All-India data shows that during the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections 65 per cent and 74 per cent of violent events respectively were recorded in the pre-poll period. However, for West Bengal, the election period offences recorded after voting was over were 61 per cent during the 2009 elections and 44.68 per cent for 2014 elections.

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POLITICS, POWER & ELECTIONS: UNCOVERING ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN WEST BENGAL

Shiv Sehgal

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At the start of his campaign for the West Bengal Assembly elections in November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, “Maut ke khel se mat nahi mil sakta (you don’t get votes from bloodshed).” While the Prime Minister did not name the state’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), or Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the BJP has repeatedly pointed fingers at the TMC for running a violent campaign.. In July last year, the party released a list of 107 members, all of whom they claimed had died due to political violence. While the TMC refuted these claims, it often comes to the fore that the state of West Bengal is rife with both political and electoral violence. The Election Commission has announced voting in eight phases, so that the presence of military forces during voting is evenly distributed and has also announced additional deployment in critical hamlets. Despite these measures, in the last month, reports of the death of a TMC worker and vandalisation of a BJP office have come to light. Understanding the complex relationship between politics, power, and elections in West Bengal is critical to understanding why the state is believed to be rampant with electoral violence.

Shiv Sehgal Director, Polstrat, a political consultancy

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WILL BJP BE ABLE TO REPEAT HISTORY IN 2021 ELECTIONS?

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In a historic win in 2016, the BJP led by Sarbananda Sonowal wrestled power out of the hands of the INC which had formed the government under Tarun Gogoi since 2001. In 2016, the BJP and its ally party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had successfully dominated upper Assam and northern Assam regions, winning 35 of the 47 seats. Out of these 47 seats, the BJP had won 27, while the AGP had bagged eight. Both of these regions are dominated by tea gardens, indigenous tribes, and ethnic community voters and the BJP was able to establish a strong base with them.

Gogoi, who managed to win the state consecutively from 2001 to 2016, was able to overcome anti-incumbency in both 2006 and 2011, due to what he had done for the state. He had successfully improved the law and order situation in the state and also brought about the development and made it easier to do business. However, in 2016, anti-incumbency worked majorly against Gogoi and coupled with BJP’s campaign of using the CAA-NRC plank to attract voters and the issue of mass unemployment, the BJP and its allies secured the state with 86 seats and a vote share of 41.9%. The Congress and its allies on the other hand only managed to secure 26 seats and a vote share of 31%.

However, in 2021, the electoral landscape of the state is very different, due to a significant rearrangement of alliances and the renewed emergence of issues such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The Congress has announced a grand alliance of parties, which includes Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front, journalist-turned-politician Ajit Bhuyan’s Anchalik Gana Morcha, the Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM) and Communist Party of India Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML). If we go by the 2016 figures, the alliance would have 48.81% of the votes. In fact, the combined vote share of the Congress and AIUDF will be higher in 17 seats that the BJP had won last time.

Another contender in the race, especially in the eastern parts of the state, is the alliance of six regional parties which includes the Assam Jatiya Parishad and Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal, both of which were formed six months ago following the anti-CAA movement, thus making the election a three-front battle.

Meanwhile, the BJP was successfully able to secure its position in the two local council polls, including the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Tiwa Autonomous Council (TAC) polls held in December last year. Many political analysts say this is an indicator of the BJP’s continued hold in the state and shows that the party is likely to come back to power in 2021. Opinion polls conducted between January and March 2021 also predict a victory for the BJP-led alliance, with the ABP News C-Voter poll stating the BJP alliance will secure 68-76 seats in the state, while the INC-led grand alliance will only be able to secure 47-55 seats. The BJP has been focusing its campaign on the development of the state while talking about the achievements of its government over the past 5 years in protecting the culture and heritage of the people.

Photograph by Creative Commons

IS THE CAA-NRC QUESTION STILL IMPORTANT?

On 8 January 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2016 – now an Act – that gives citizenship to all minorities Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians from India’s neighbouring Muslim majority countries. The law does not grant such eligibility to Muslims from those countries. As of February 2021, the rules for implementation of the same have not been drawn up yet and the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) has been given extra time till July 2021 to frame the same. Until the rules are not notified, the Act cannot be implemented.

Many believe that this is being done due to the assembly elections slated to be held in both Assam and West Bengal. CAA is a major issue in Assam as the indigenous population of the state fears that the implementation of the Act would give citizenship rights to a large number of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees.

Violent protests against the CAA in the state in December 2019 led to the death of five during police firing and opposition to the legislation also led to the birth of two regional parties. It is important to note that while protests across the country were against the exclusion of Muslims in the Act, in Assam, the opposition to the bill was against allowing non-Muslim illegal immigrants to become citizens.

A lot of people in Assam, including members of civil society, and voters believe that the CAA is against the Assam Accord of 1985 and if implemented, could lead to an influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who they believe could threaten language, culture, and land holdings of locals.

BJP used the issue of NRC as the crux of its campaign in Assam during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2016 Assembly elections. Bringing the CAA-NRC issue to the spotlight helped the party secure seven out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. This motivated them further to use this as a platform for their campaign in 2016 even more extensively.

As per political analysts, voters from ethnic communities voted for the BJP, hoping they would be able to deport back “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh. At the same time, the Bengali-Hindu community, which comprises nearly 25% of the population of Assam also voted for the BJP, hoping that all non-Muslim migrants who came into Assam till 2014 would be given citizenship rights.

However, in the months leading up to the 2021 assembly elections, it would appear that the BJP has remained completely silent on the issue of CAA-NRC. None of the star campaigners of the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda have commented on the CAA-NRC issue during campaigns in Assam. The party is trying to shift the focus of their campaign from the issue of the CAA-NRC to their development work in the past 5 years.

On the other hand, the opposition grand alliance, led by the Congress has made the CAA-NRC issue a prime area of focus in their campaign. The Congress has said that nullifying the CAA is amongst its five guarantees for the elections and the slogan “CAA nohoy, sakori laage” (Give jobs, not CAA) has been plastered by the Youth Congress across the state.

Congress senior leader Rahul Gandhi has promised to protect the Assam Accord, which was signed during his father Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure in 1985. With the opposition trying to bring back focus to the CAA-NRC issue, and the BJP keeping silent on the same, it is unclear what the role of the same will be in the upcoming election.

Photograph by Creative Commons

Photograph by Live.StaticFlikr

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CAA OR DEVELOPMENT: WHAT WILL ASSAM GO FOR IN ASSEMBLY POLLS?

Shiv Sehgal

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While it would seem that the spotlight during this season of Assembly elections has been on West Bengal, another critical state that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP is battling to secure is Assam. The Assam Assembly elections, which are slated to take place between March 27 and April 6, are likely to be a three-cornered fight with the BJP-led front, the Congress-led grand alliance and the regional front. Last week, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal launched the campaign of the party in Guwahati, stating that the focus of the party will continue to be the all-around development of the state.

The BJP’s rise to power in the state was a huge victory for the party as it was able to secure a state in which it traditionally did not hold any power. In the 2016 assembly election, the BJP managed to win 60 of the 126 seats on its own, and 86 in partnership with its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). However, in 2021, the landscape of the state has changed dramatically. Not only have alliances amongst parties changed, but the opposition has been using the BJP’s delay in implementing the CAA and NRC, which has been its critical electoral plank in the state for years as a tool against them.

Shiv Sehgal Director, Polstrat, a political consultancy

Photograph by Live.StaticFlikr

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A TALE OF 2 ALLIANCES: LDF VS UDF

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New Delhi: Since 1980 (from the First E. K. Nayanar ministry) the two alliances (UDF and LDF) have been alternatively voted to power in the state. Unlike other states in the country where alliances between parties shift with every election, alliances in Kerala have stabilized in a strong manner, and apart from rare exceptions, most coalition partners maintain loyalty with their alliance partners. Since 1979, power in the state has constantly alternated between the two parties, with neither government being able to gain re-election for a second term.

In 2016, the LDF won the elections with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, bagging 91 of the 140 seats in the state legislature and a vote share of 43.48%. The incumbent UDF, led by the Indian National Congress had only managed to secure 47 seats with a vote share of 38.81% in the state. The BJP, which had been surging in other parts of the country, only managed to secure 1 seat, while it still managed to secure 14.96% of the vote share. An independent candidate, P.C. George from Poonjar assembly constituency, who later formed the party Kerala Janapaksham (Secular) also won a seat.

During local body elections held in the state last year, the LDF won in more than half of all gram panchayats, two thirds of district panchayats and in four out of six municipal corporations. As per opinion polls and local body polls held in the state last year, it seems to be that the 2021 Assembly Elections might be the first time in the history of the state that a government will win re-election for the first time in the state. However, in light of the events of the gold smuggling scandal, the allegations of the backdoor appointments made by the LDF government, and the overall impact of the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, this could perhaps change.

LDF LIKELY TO FORM GOVT IN KERALA AGAIN: OPINION POLLS

With less than a month to go to the Assembly Elections in the state, various opinion polls have predicted a victory for the CPI(M) led LDF government. As per the ABP News-CVoter opinion poll, the LDF is slated to win between 83-91 seats, with a vote share of about 40%. Meanwhile, the poll also states that the INC led UDF is likely to win 47-55 seats, while the BJP, which won 1 seat in the last Assembly Elections is again likely to win 0-2 seats. Similarly, as per the Times Now-C-Voter Poll Survey, the LDF is likely to win 82 seats, while the UDF is likely to grab 56 seats, and the BJP is likely to win just one seat again.

Two major television news channels from the states- Asianet News and 24 News- have both predicted an LDF victory as well. The Kerala Legislative Assembly has 140 seats and 71 seats are needed to secure a simple majority in the state legislature. While Asianet News has given the LDF between 72-78 seats, 24 News predicts around 68-72 seats for the LDF. However, it is important to note that both these channels are considered pro-left in varying degrees.

Although traditionally, the state of Kerala has had high anti-incumbency and has almost always alternated between an LDF and UDF led government, the current LDF government is enjoying significantly high approval ratings. As per the Times Now-C-Voter Poll Survey, 42.34% of people are very much satisfied with the performance of the incumbent Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 36.36% of respondents also said that they are very much satisfied with the performance of the state government, while an additional 39.66% said they are satisfied to some extent with the state government’s performance.

Similarly, another survey conducted by the MCV Network & Spick Media Group shows that 39.13% of respondents are very satisfied with the work of the Chief Minister, while an additional 39.13% are satisfied with his work. As per the same survey, 41.54% of respondents said they would prefer to see Pinarayi Vijayan as Chief Minister again.

FROM GOLD SMUGGLING TO SABARIMALA: ISSUES AFFECTING ELECTORAL BEHAVIOUR IN KERALA

As the elections inch closer, there are several issues from the past months, which are likely to affect the electoral dynamics in the state. As the state continues to battle the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, several experts and analysts have criticized the LDF government’s handling of the crisis, where case counts have been rising and testing rates have been lower compared to other parts of the country.

The gold smuggling scandal and the allegations of backdoor appointments by the LDF have both been covered extensively in the media and projected as evidence of the corruption in the LDF led government. In July 2020, 30 kilograms of gold worth Rs 14.82 crores was caught being smuggled in a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage, leading to widespread protests across the state demanding the resignation of key leaders. As per the survey conducted by the MCV Network & Spick Media Group, 53.65% of respondents believe the allegations made against the state government in this case. In addition to this, the opposition has also alleged that the maximum number of illegal and backdoor appointments are in the IT department which is handled by the Chief Minister himself. The state government has also been under attack over the protest of Public Service Commission rank holders in Thiruvananthapuram.

In addition to this, religious and communal issues, including the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple and the power tussle of the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church could also impact the electoral fate of the state. 42.33% of respondents said that the issue of the Sabarimala is likely to have an impact on the upcoming elections. Even in the recent local body elections held in the state, Christians, who have traditionally been Congress voters shifted their allegiance towards the LDF. This is being attributed to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s efforts to develop a relationship with some prominent church heads. Along with the shifting of Jose K Mani’s Kerala Congress (M) faction, which enjoys considerable Christian support in central Kerala, to the LDF.

While a myriad of issues and controversies surround the incumbent LDF government, opinion polls, local body results and approval ratings do suggest that for the first time in the history of the state, a government is likely to be re-elected into power for the second consecutive time.

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