Frayed collars, ink-stained shirts and a general shambolic air are the characteristics that most people have come to associate with outgoing Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy. These are meant to symbolise clean living and high thinking. In the end, as Kerala veers towards the Left, his image was not enough to push the Congress boat to the other shore, weighed down as it was by the solar scam and the allegations of monumental corruption on the part of those considered close to Chandy like former finance minister K M Mani.
Chandy was too slow to distance himself from the evergreen Mani, Kerala’s longest serving finance minister, making every excuse in the book for the Palai strongman to stay on in power. The BJP playing spoiler is only part of the problem Chandy faced. His much touted semi-prohibition did not pay off: the Malayalee and his drink are not easily parted. The ludicrous half-measure of wine and beer being all right but not other liquor cannot have won Chandy too many friends.
But above all, the so-called high command did not seem to throw its weight behind Chandy in an election like this if he had to buck the incumbency factor. The less than comprehensible AK Antony did most of the heavy lifting while the Gandhi family made guest appearances. Much criticism has also fallen on Rahul Gandhi’s state advisers who seemed to have got it all wrong.
The Left trump card was always going to be the nonagenarian VS Achuthanandan whose rockstar appeal is hard to beat even for rivals within his own fold. Chandy stuck to the tried and tested path of fielding what he thought were safe candidates and above all seemingly thumbing his nose at the knowledgeable electorate by explaining away his association with the catastrophic solar scam in an airy and dismissive way. People wanted answers as to why the squeaky-clean Chandy, or at least those close to him, were involved in the scam and he gave them none. He has paid for his arrogance with this crushing defeat.
HT editors analyse election results