No strong wave is visible in the politically-conscious state but it is unlikely to shed its three-decade-long tradition of dumping the ruling coalition after every five years. After a month-long acrimonious campaigning, which often took a personal tone, the state will go to polls on Wednesday to decide the fate of 971 candidates.
Though the state is witnessing a tough two-cornered contest between the ruling CPM-controlled Left Democratic Front and Congress-led United Democratic Front the latter has a clear edge. But it is not a cakewalk either. A distant third-runner BJP is desperate to open its account.
Going by the last LS and civic poll results, the UDF would have got an easy walkover. But situation changed a bit after the CPM 'reinvented' its fading mascot Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan. The party state unit had denied the 87-year-old a seat initially, though he announced his intention to contest. But later Politburo had intervened and ensured a seat. This has generated enough sympathy for the copybook Marxist. True, his meetings witnessed massive turnout. But it remains to be seen whether his new-found charisma will translate into votes or not and how the party will treat him after elections.
Going by the geography of the state, the northern Malabar region is a left bastion. But the UDF had made inroads into the area during the civic polls held eight months ago. Offset with many allegations (like ice cream parlor sex scandal of 1990s) earlier now Muslim League has returned with some new vigor. The party is contesting in 24 seats, mainly in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. Kochi and central Kerala, where Christians play a key role, traditionally back UDF candidates. In southern Travancore region also UDF enjoys upper hand.
Sex, sleaze, personal barbs and mud-slinging, the state never witnessed such a vitriolic campaign pushing real issues to the backburner. The latest was spat between VS and Rahul Gandhi. Rahul's swipe at the age of CM had invited sharp reactions from him. "Where was the Amul baby for 40 years," he had shot back (rich and pampered siblings are often referred as Amul babies).
Though many central leaders came down it was defence minister A K Anony who really took on the left covering 14 districts of the state attacking Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan fiercely from every stage. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI secretary A B Bardhan and Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar batted strongly for a second innings for the Left. To add to the UDF relief three pre-poll surveys conducted by different agencies have given a clear edge to it. Going by the current trends the state is unlikely to defy its tradition of not giving the ruling party a second innings.
Important candidates in the fray are CM V S Achuthanandan (Malampuzha), Opposition leader Oommen Chandy (Puthuppally), PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala (Harippad), CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (Thalsserry), Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac (Alapuzha) and NSU all-India chief Hybi Eden.