Corruption charges, the brutal rape in Kochi last month and anti-incumbency seem to have worked against the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, going by the exit polls.
Of six surveys, four showed a clear mandate to the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) while one gave the ruling Congress a slight edge and the other predicted a hung assembly. Most of them predicted that the BJP would pick up about 2-6 seats.
Charges of corruption rocked chief minister Oomen Chandy and his government, strengthening the anti-incumbency wave. Kerala traditionally boots out the ruling party at every election.
The brutal rape and murder of a law student in Kochi last month also dealt a heavy blow to the UDF that parroted the slogan “development with care”. It suffered a major dent in its central Travancore vote bank where Christians have seemingly slipped away.
Internal differences over ticket distribution further undid the party. An angry Chandy threatened to keep away from the contest if some of his ministers were denied berths. It took almost seven days to finalise the list. Both party chief V M Sudheeran and home minister Ramesh Chennithala may blame chief minister Chandy for the sorry state now.
Of the UDF parties, Congress will likely take the brunt while the Muslim League, the second biggest partner, will salvage some pride by winning most of the seats from Muslim-dominated areas.
On the other hand, unity in the CPM helped the LDF reap rich dividends. After putting the contentious chief minister issue on a backburner, nonagenarian veteran VS Achuthanandan and senior leader Pinarayi Vijayan buried the hatchet much before polls and presented a united front like never before. Also, party general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, did not make the same mistake as Prakash Karat in 2011 when Achuthanandan was denied a ticket.
For the BJP it seems its alliance with the Ezhava outfit, the Bhartaiya Jena Dharma Sena (BJDS), helped in realising its long-cherished dream of opening an account in the assembly. Having won the first round, it will try hard to strengthen its base further.
An elated LDF said the exit poll results were as expected, but an upset Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) questioned their credibility, citing the last Bihar and Delhi assembly elections in which most of the surveys went wrong, and a news channel apologised for getting the numbers incorrect.
The final tally of votes in the assembly elections will take place on May 19.