The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala had not been expecting such a tough election. Of course, it was never going to be a cakewalk—the Left’s national presence is now almost completely limited to Kerala, meaning it would make sense in a general election for minority votes to consolidate behind the Congress—but the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government’s efficient handling of the state’s worst floods in a century had given it hope.
The controversy over women entering Sabarimala had alienated a section of Hindu voters, but a backlash against the divisive tactics unleashed by the BJP—whose sole poll plank was Sabarimala—was expected to make up for that. The Left’s primary opposition in the state, the Congress, was in disarray after failing to take a proper stand on the issue (even being called the BJP’s “B-team” at one point) as well as internal wrangling.
And then, news broke that Congress president Rahul Gandhi had chosen to contest from Wayanad in north Kerala as well as his mainstay Amethi. Overnight, the Congress-led UDF got a new shot at life, while the Left parties were forced to go on the backfoot.
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On 23 April, the state recorded voter turnout of 77.68%, the highest in recent history—political...