Kerala once again kept its tradition of voting out the incumbent government. But, it wasn't a decisive win for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). It managed to sew up a victory, but with a slender margin — out of 140 seats it got 72, while the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) bagged 68.
Demolished in West Bengal, the Left Front can find consolation in Kerala, where it got 45 seats, and emerged as the single largest party. The performance is being credited to outgoing chief minister, VS Achuthanandan, 87, who checked the anti-incumbency wave.
Good performance of some of UDF's allies — the Muslim League got 20 seats, and Kerala Congress (Mani) won nine — helped the party muster a simple majority. Opposition leader Oommen Chandy is tipped to become the next chief minister.
But poor candidate selection and its tiff with allies might cost the Congress bargaining power. Of the 85 seats it contested, the Congress could manage to win only 38. It suffered major setbacks in Kozhikode (north Kerala), Alapuzha and Pathanamthitta districts.
The Congress has its work cut out in keeping the allies in good humour.
Even single-MLA parties will drive a hard bargain for a place in the council of ministers.
"It is not on expected lines, but we will form the government," said PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala, who won from Harippad. The Bharatiya Janata Party drew a blank in the state this time as well.
The LDF would function as an effective opposition, fighting corruption and the 'anti-people' policies of the government, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders VS Achutanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Attributing the UDF's victory to "polarisation of communal forces", the outgoing chief minister said the LDF would not try to form a government by exploiting the slender UDF victory margin.